Nov 8, 2023 - News

Ybor City could adopt Orlando's nightlife model after deadly shooting

People clean up after a fatal shooting in the Ybor City neighborhood on October 29, 2023 in Tampa, Florida.

People clean up after a fatal shooting Oct. 29 in the Ybor City neighborhood. Photo: Octavio Jones/Getty Images

Last month's fatal shooting in Ybor City has prompted officials to explore ways they can safeguard residents without hurting the bottom line of local businesses.

Why it matters: People who call Ybor City home, who have walked the crooked, brick-paved streets and worked to make the historic district a better and safer place, now face tough questions about what comes next.

What's happening: Tampa's City Council met last week to discuss a proposed curfew in the historic district. But after facing staunch opposition from residents and business owners, it appears to be off the table for now.

  • Tampa Police chief Lee Bercaw, meanwhile, touted Orlando's approach to nightlife as "very promising" during a presentation to the council.

Zoom in: Orlando enacted a variety of changes to its downtown nightlife recently, the Orlando Sentinel reported, partly in response to a July 2022 shooting that wounded seven people.

  • The city adopted a six-month moratorium on new nightclubs in March. It's since been extended.
  • Orlando revised its code to distinguish among bars, nightclubs, and restaurants; the move allowed officials to tailor regulations for each category.
  • Bars and nightclubs are now required to obtain a permit to serve liquor after midnight. Those with a capacity over 125 must hire off-duty police officers. Some businesses also have to wand patrons with metal detectors.

Orlando Police chief Eric Smith told Spectrum News 13 that violent crime in the city's downtown declined 10% from last year, while shootings are down 30%.

  • "We've seen a big change where we were having shootings pretty much weekly downtown," he said in August, crediting the policy changes and other initiatives for the improvement. "Now we're not having that, so downtown is substantially safer."

Yes, but: Orlando late-night business operators have bristled at the cost of the added security requirements.

  • "It's such a huge burden, hundreds of thousands of dollars a year," Orlando Hospitality Alliance vice president Monica McCown told Spectrum.

What they're saying: Lyndsay Boggess, a University of South Florida criminology professor, tells Axios, "Reactive policies such as these tend to be short term in nature, whereas efforts to reduce the number of guns on the street may be more effective long term."

  • "Local businesses may oppose such restrictions, but it comes down to a question of tradeoff," Jacinta Gau, a University of Central Florida criminal justice professor, tells Axios. "Profits would suffer if downtown areas gain a reputation as being unsafe, so it might be worth the initial monetary loss in order to sustain a customer base."

What's next: Bercaw did not identify specific Orlando policies under consideration. He said reviewing the city's approach to violence in its downtown is the "first step," according to Creative Loafing.


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