Ron and Martha Mickler stand in front of their home on Spanish Street in St. Augustine on Thursday. [PETER WILLOTT/THE RECORD]
By Sheldon Gardner
Posted at 5:00 PM
Updated at 7:51 PM
St. Augustine City Manager John Regan wants to the city to overhaul how it handles nightlife.
At Monday’s meeting, he plans to ask the St. Augustine City Commission to give him support for a number of changes, including in how alcohol sales are handled in the city, he said.
If commissioners approve the plan, the first step will be working with business owners and others in the city to craft an ordinance on alcohol sales, he said. The first workshop would be at 3 p.m. Aug. 28 at City Hall, and the ordinance probably wouldn’t be ready until September, Regan said.
But he’s already got a proposal for what to include in the ordinance.
For one, he wants the city to require any business that serves beer, wine or liquor after a certain time — maybe after midnight — to obtain an extended-hour permit from the city. That permit would come with requirements.
The requirements would include training employees in serving alcohol responsibly, abiding by noise restrictions, such as no amplified outdoor music; keeping the property clean; and being proactive about engaging with police when problems arise.
As it stands, bar owners can let rowdy patrons onto the street without trying to help clean up the issue. Under Regan’s plan, the city would hold businesses accountable for crimes that stem from their businesses.
“A lot if these crimes ... they originated in a bar and they were just shoved on to the street,” Regan said.
Illegal activities on the premises, such as employees selling drugs, or other permit violations could cause a business to have its permit suspended or revoked.
There are other components of Regan’s plan to improve nightlife in St. Augustine. The plan includes more frequent pressure washing of St. George Street and other areas, late-night garbage can cleanups, more officers downtown and hubs for ride-sharing services to help people exit the city in an orderly fashion.
The reason behind the changes comes from the City Commission’s decision to make managing nightlife a priority, Regan said.
Incidents such as wrecks and violence downtown have also brought more attention to the city’s nightlife.
Ron and Martha Mickler hope the city can do something to make nightlife a little safer in St. Augustine.
The Micklers live on Spanish Street in the heart of downtown. After recent wrecks and crimes downtown, Martha Mickler asked the City Commission to search for solutions.
Aside from the big incidents in the news, the Micklers deal with routine nuisances such as cars speeding down the street with music blaring late at night.
“The later it goes, the faster the traffic is and the louder it is,” Ron Mickler said.
“We truly believe it’s related to late-night alcohol,” Martha Mickler said.
As for Regan’s proposal, Ron Mickler said he likes the idea of tying incidents back to businesses.
Businesses should watch more carefully what people are drinking and when they’ve had enough, and make sure to better police their own establishments, he said.
“It would really cut the danger down a lot,” he said.
Martha Mickler said she appreciates that the city is a putting a focus on improving the environment for residents and visitors.
“I really firmly believe most of our business owners want what’s best for the city and for their customers and our visitors,” she said.
Tom Dolan, co-owner of Meehan’s Irish Pub in St. Augustine, said he wanted to wait to hear Regan’s presentation on Monday before commenting on it. A group of business owners are working together to try to address any issues that come up, he said.
“We are always committed to working with our community and being a part of it in a good fashion, and we’re going to continue to do that,” he said.
Phil McDaniel, CEO of the St. Augustine Distillery, said in an email to The Record that a group of downtown liquor license holders are talking to each other about downtown issues.
“We have met twice and realize that there are opportunities to work together with the city and be a part of making the visitor experience better,” he wrote.
He said the city is considered a safe place. But he added he’s grateful the city is seeking to make downtown safer, cleaner and more vibrant, and he wants to be part of the process.
“There are a always a few bad apples in any bunch,” he wrote. “It’s my hope that this new plan to shape and improve the city’s late nightlife will help them get on board to be a part of this new plan ... for a cleaner, safer, more vibrant downtown, where people can have a good time but be responsible in the process — and get home safely.”