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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

City commissioners may press bars on underage drinking with new permit

Gainesville city commissioners say underage drinking in downtown and midtown bars has gone far enough, and they're willing to close the door on everyone under 21 if the problem isn't resolved.

Commissioners passed a proposal Monday to draft an ordinance requiring bars to request a special permit to admit people ages 18 to 20.

The "entertainment permit" would only be granted if bars maintain below a certain number of underage drinking arrests and uphold public safety standards. The proposal comes after more than 700 people were arrested for underage drinking in bars from July 2007 to April 2008, according to Gainesville Police Department records.

City Commissioner Jeanna Mastrodicasa said she didn't know how much the permit would cost bars, but the price would be minimal.

Records show GPD has paid $125,000 this year to officers working overtime to curb violence and underage drinking in the downtown and midtown areas.

"It's time for bars to step up and be more responsible," said Mastrodicasa, who presented the ordinance, in an interview before the meeting.

Public safety inspections conducted in January found that 20 out of 25 venues had code violations such as blocked exits and overcrowding.

Mastrodicasa presented UF Student Government with her proposal in April. She said some people worried the ordinance would interfere with students' social lives.

SG representative Frank Bracco spoke against the ordinance at Monday's meeting, saying it would not address the real problem of underage drinking and would only cause people under 21 to find alcohol elsewhere.

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