By Emily Hoover | firstname.lastname@example.org
The City of St. Augustine will join the rest of St. Johns County with its decision to extend liquor sales to 2 a.m., starting Feb. 5.
In an effort to support local businesses and generate tax revenue for economic development, restaurants and bars now have one more hour for business. St. Augustine Beach approved the ordinance unanimously in mid-December, days after the county commission voted to extend last call.
“The discussion began in October,” County Commissioner Joseph “Ken” Bryan said. “We conducted a survey for proprietors, about 20 people last year. It had an impact. We felt we had an obligation to represent them for extension.”
The Tourist Development Council conducted a similar survey with parallel results.
The new ordinance, Bryan said, will benefit small restaurants and bars with an extra hour for sales and will also give customers a bit longer to “wind down.”
Businesses that sell food also have the opportunity to lengthen their kitchen hours. Additionally, he said, it will improve the city image for tourist season. Businesses downtown and on the beach will not lose customers to other areas with a later alcohol cut off, such as Jacksonville, he said.
Bryan said he pushed for the ordinance to go into effect before the holiday season. He succeeded on the beach and out of city limits, as the city took more time to deliberate before approval. St. Augustine Beach City Commissioner Edward George was unavailable for comment.
The ordinance is temporary, and will be reviewed in July. Commissioners will then decide whether to keep the policy or repeal it.
Despite speculations that noise related complaints and drunk driving would increase on the beach, Bryan, whose district includes the beach, said that police have not responded to more calls from residential areas.
“I have spoken with both proprietors and the police, and they have seen no change,” he said. “If this ordinance makes a substantial difference and helps local proprietors, we will make it permanent.”