St. Pete bars to stay open later

May 7th, 2010 by

ST. PETERSBURG – Cheers and jeers for a new law here.

The City Council approved a law that would let bars in St. Petersburg stay open an extra hour. Starting next Friday, the suds will flow an extra hour, until 3 a.m.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving isn’t happy about the law, but supporters, including many bar managers, think it will boost the economy and keep people safe.

Katrina Smith likes to have an occasional cocktail. She used to start her partying at Georgie’s Alibi in St. Pete, but once last call came around at 1:30 a.m. she and many of her friends would cross the bridge and head to Tampa for one last hour of fun. That is all about to change.

“Now it gives us the opportunity to keep that money here in town and have a good time here and get safely home and not having to drive over the bridge,” said Smith.

Bar owners are also toasting the extended hour at The Venue. They say it will definitely help their bottom line.

City officials say this now puts them on a level playing field with Tampa bars, which serve alcohol until 3 a.m.

For years, St. Pete bar owners watched in frustration as their customers closed their tab early and head north.

“So when you add up the 30 minutes that you lost from people leaving early, and you multiply that by a five day week, that adds up,” said Michael Bilello at The Venue.

While most think the extra drinking hour is a good idea, St. Petersburg police worry this could mean an increase in calls and longer wait times for officers on duty.

Yet City Council member Wengay Newton voted in favor of the ordinance, believing it comes down to safety.

“We’ve had a lot of incidents, young people have come back, fallen asleep, not from drinking but just being tired and crashed,” said Newton, “so we just think keeping the kids and the younger people closer to home will make more sense.”

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