Orlando discusses proposed rule change with bar owners before March 20 vote

After proposing a rule change forcing downtown bars and clubs to pay for a permit if they want to stay open past midnight, the City of Orlando met with businesses owners to discuss it's latest updates.

Bar owners at a meeting Wednesday said they appreciate the open communication, but while the new changes are easier on larger bars and clubs, smaller ones could have to pay more now.

Last July, seven people were hurt after a shooting outside a downtown bar, causing a chaotic scene. According to the Orlando City District, 55% of people recently surveyed say they feel very unsafe downtown late at night.

"Even lately, hasn’t been that bad," said Zabrina Witherspoon who works downtown. "I just feel like the summer is the summer and people don’t know how to act in the summer."

"For the most part, I think that would be a bit of a stretch to have to charge clubs because they’re just going to charge us more to get drinks," said Marvin Jeter who lives downtown.

The city's proposal would force downtown bars and clubs to buy a permit to stay open past midnight. Some would have to pay for extra officers to patrol the area. The number of officers is based on how many patrons they can fit.

"Everybody wants safety," said Scott Kotroba, who owns six bars downtown. "It’s just who’s responsible for it and how do we divvy up the cost."

The city's new version of the rule lowers the number of officers that bars and clubs with large capacities would have to pay for. But now, it also forces slightly smaller bars, like some of Kotroba's, to pay for officers, bringing the cut-off from 150 people, down to 125.

"At McQueens, we have a 132-person occupancy, and the cut-off is 125," Kotroba said. "So by having eight people more, it’s going to cost us $40-$50,000 more a year."

Kotroba told FOX 35 News he was already looking at spending an extra $100,000 a year under the original proposal, but now it will be more.

Orlando's city council will vote on the proposed changes on March 20.