Chamber President/CEO Isabelle Renault is calling on the St. Augustine City Commission to pause efforts to create a new nightlife ordinance until an economic impact study recommended by its own consultant, the Responsible Hospitality Institute (“RHI”), is undertaken.
“Without a complete understanding of the potential negative effects that could result for St. Augustine’s hospitality and tourism businesses, we urge the City Commission to take a step back and conduct the study that was recommended by both its consultant RHI and the City-appointed Special Committee to Study Nightlife,” Renault said.
As currently drafted, the proposed nightlife ordinance would require any establishment wishing to sell alcohol between midnight and 2:00 a.m. to obtain a special permit from the City. The permit specifies adherence to current state alcohol laws such as employee training, no shift drinking by employees, and adherence to fire code maximum capacity limits, among others.
In its own Frequently Asked Questions released this week, the City of St. Augustine acknowledged that “it is common industry practice to train your staff to recognize when to stop serving, how to check I.D.s for underage drinking, how to handle difficult customers, etc. State agencies already have similar training programs and the City’s requirements are even less rigorous. The City would accept the equivalent state agency or commercially available programs for training staff. The requirement for security during hours of operation is also already what the industry uses, as was stated by many speakers during the public hearings.”
In recent years, the City of St. Augustine has developed a thriving downtown nightlife sector encompassing many new restaurants and venues, offering new and different experiences for tourists and locals alike.
“The City has appeared on many national “Best Of” lists for its quality of life and tourism and hospitality offerings. Without a complete understanding of the contributions of these businesses to the community, we are concerned that this proposed nightlife ordinance may halt the positive trajectory of the tourism and hospitality sector which is the City’s largest employer.” Renault said.
The St. Johns County Chamber was represented by two members of the City-appointed quality of nightlife special committee: current Chamber Chair Beth Sweeny and VP of Public Policy Bob Porter and has been actively engaged with this issue on behalf of its many downtown businesses.
In recent meetings with St. Augustine Mayor Nancy Sikes-Kline and Vice Mayor Roxanne Horvath, the Chamber expressed its desire to pause further action by the City Commission until the important Economic Analysis was completed to prevent any negative unintended consequences to the City’s vibrant nightlife sector.
For further information, please contact Communications Manager Jamie Johnson at Jamie.firstname.lastname@example.org