MARGATE - Bars and restaurants in Margate will no longer serve alcoholic beverages after 12:00 am Monday through Sunday. Elected officials blind-sided establishments at a September city meeting when unanimously denying 17 applicants special after hours permits effective September 30th.
At one point in time holders of 2COPs (beer, wine) or 4COPs (beer, wine, liquor) in Margate needed to be present at city hall to obtain approval of extended hour applications. The special permit license in Margate allows establishments to stay open until 2am Monday-Thursday & Sunday; and until 4am Friday and Saturday.
The requirement for owners to be present at City Hall was reversed via city commission consensus in recent years, resulting in only two of 17 applicants at Margate City Hall last week. One, the American Legion, typically closes around 9pm but wants to maintain the special permit for parties and weddings that lease the hall, said Susan Butler for the Legion.
The other was Brady’s Sports Pub who told commissioners that his bar does a fair amount of business until 2am during the week and 4am on weekends.
“Here in Florida most people don’t come out until 10 or 11. It’s nice to stay open and accommodate them,” he said.
Owner Tom took exception with the process. He said he received his renewal notice on the day of the meeting Wednesday and it contained nothing that indicated his license might be denied. He assured commissioners if other bar owners knew, they would have attended the meeting.
“I just got the notice today in the mail. I’ve been coming for 30 years to these meetings. A lot of the other bar owners who have the 4COP who would be here if this was going to be discussed,” he said.
To Brady’s point, three resolutions were atypically grouped into a single resolution on the publicly noticed agenda item. First to approve; second to approve with conditions, and third to deny.
Vice Mayor, Tommy Ruzzano and Commissioner Arlene Schwartz said they didn’t see the three resolutions in their agenda backup either.
“I don’t see the special conditions, period,” said Schwartz.
Findings were confirmed by City Attorney, Janette Smith.
“On the agenda the title is not the exact language as the resolution titles in the backup,” she told commissioners.
Commissioner, Antonio Arserio, said he believes the price for extended hours should come at a premium. More than $150 a year. The cost for the permit now.
Ruzzano, who has pushed to raise the cost of the permit in the past, agreed.
"We give them out like they’re water. What are we actually getting from 2am to 4 am?” he asked. "I don’t see anything positive about this.”
Similar to Tom from Brady’s, Ruzzano felt the process was flawed.
“I think this was handled the wrong way, so I’m going to vote no on this,” he said.
Schwartz, once victim to a drunk driver, said she has “an issue with people drinking until 4am.”
“I get the fact that some people get off work. Go to sleep and drink normal,” she opined. “We are a city of residents and not an entertainment hub.”
Commissioner, Joanne Simone, agreed that the license should come at a premium and “that people shouldn’t be drinking until 4am."
Mayor, Anthony Caggiano, charged with approving the city commission agenda, said the special permit item was not publicly noticed for discussion on raising costs.
Talked ensued over people drinking at the Coconut Creek Casino around the clock and if people wanted to drink until 4 am. they could go there.
“You’re actually forcing the people to leave town and then come back drunk,” said Brady’s Pub.
Arserio pushed staff for research on DUI stats and to put together a list of viable options for permit considerations.
Caggiano said he spoke to the police chief who cleared all establishments for approval. As noted by the city ordinance, issuing the special permit is a “privilege” that can be revoked at any time should a bar or restaurant be subject to frequent calls for service by police.
DUIs by the Numbers
Data gleaned by MargateNews.net via weekly crime blotters from January to August 2019 show a total 26 arrests for DUI over the 8-month period. The majority of drunk driving incidents at 38.5% did not involve a Margate bar, according to police records.
Only three bars in Margate were specifically mentioned as the defendant’s stop before arrest. One had early closing hours and the defendant was arrested at 11:35 PM. Another bar with extended hours had one of its patron’s arrested on Monday at 1:09 AM before the bar had closed for the evening. The third person arrested after leaving a Margate establishment already had two DUI convictions.
As far as day of the week, most arrests (42.3%) happened on Sunday which could account for drivers leaving parties and bars after a Saturday night out. Saturday arrests for Friday revelers came in at 19.2% of arrests.
While 23% of those arrested lived in Margate, 19% came from Coral Springs and 30% from other Broward Cities.
Black defendants accounted for 42.3% of DUI arrests; Whites and Hispanics came in at 26.9% each.
Arrested drivers ranged in age from 21 to 70; 57.7% were between the ages of 31 and 50.
Males made up 69.2% of those arrested for DUI in Margate during the 8-month time period.
(Scroll through report with tables at bottom.)
Members from the public spoke against extended hours during the Wednesday quasi-judicial hearing. Board of Adjustment member, Charlie Artner, said Margate is “a family-oriented town does not need people driving around drunk until 4a.m.”
Resident, Rich Alianello, said “2am is enough. If they want to drink until 4 am it’s ridiculous,” he said. “If you turn it down, I’m not going to cry.”
Margate Planning & Zoning Chair, Rich Zucchini, suggested police presence for bars that want extended hours.
Tabling the item was suggested twice by commissioners, but the group instead voted unanimously to deny bar owners until commissioners can arrive at premium costs for extended hours and determine which bars can make a legitimate case for after hours service. First, three months must pass, a stipulation in city code.
For bar and restaurants, this means no after-hours service during the busiest time of year: the holidays.
Doris Stanczyk from Amvets told MargateNews.net she too felt blind-sided by inadequate notice of intent by elected officials. Her establishment, similar to the American Legion, is rented for parties and would like to maintain her extended hours. The place usually closes by midnite.
"If people are leaving bars drunk, they're not coming from here," she told us.
Another 2am/4am bar owner said she received her notice to approve extended hours the day before the meeting.
“We’ve been closing early anyway, but this was handled all wrong,” she told us."I better get my check for the permit back tomorrow. We're paid up for the next year and the city already cashed it."