The Portland City Council is gearing up to consider another limit on nightlife in the Old Port by preventing bars from staying open past 1 am. Gary Wood, attorney for the city, will propose a 180 day moratorium on after-hours licenses in the Old Port at the next council meeting tomorrow night -Wednesday, April 19, at 7 pm. If it passes, the city will likely use those 180 days to craft clearer, objective standards for the granting of after-hours licenses.
If you think this is a bad idea, don't rush down to city hall and risk missing Lost just yet. (Screw it, miss Lost. The show sucks. Seriously, we've had our fill of pregnant pauses and predictable twists and dudes running around underground. Solve some of the mysteries already. Throw me a bone.)
This is just the first reading of a required two before the council votes and Wood will ask them to not even consider the item or take public comment until early June. This will give the Public Safety Committee, chaired by Munjoy Hill councilor Will Gorham, time to hash out the pros and cons of Wood's suggestions.
For those of you who want to pipe up, this Public Safety Committee meeting is where it's at since they're the ones who will endorse, nix, or tweek Wood's proposal. Their meeting will be held on May 11 at 5 pm in room 209. Wood says the committee will be taking public comment.
Wood hopes the moratorium will make it though committee and to the council by June, just in time for the summer rush. If passed as is, the 180 day moratorium will be retroactive to April 19 and will affect the only two after-hours license holders in the Old Port as well as anyone who plans to apply for a new late-night license. Brian Hanson, owner of the Industry, and Tom Manning, owner of the Lava Lounge, Liquid Blue, and Diggers, hold after-hours licenses. Wood says the Industry plans to close and become the restaurant Right Proper Charlie's any day now and Tom Manning is not currently using his after-hours license, so the moratorium won't affect them adversely.
The Industry's allegedly impending closing motivated Wood to suggest the 180-day freeze.
"Basically, there's in my mind at least going to be a considerable entertainment vacuum when the Industry closes [and other bar owners want its late-night crowd], leaving us right where we are now, which from the police department's perspective is not a good decision," says Wood.
Here's the agenda item for the April 19 meeting:
Article III (Music, Dancing and Special Entertainment)
Division 2 (Licenses) Section 4-51– Sponsored by Gary C. Wood, Corporation Counsel.
Current city law allows late-night entertainment to go to 3:00 a.m. This moratorium will establish 1:00 a.m. as the interim law for the next 180 daysas 1:00 a.m. is the time that the bars have to stop serving.
The ordinance is drafted to impose a moratorium from April 19, 2006, when it will be given a first reading, to October 17, 2006 on any license for entertainment between 1:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. During the 180 day moratorium staff will work with the Mayor’s Old Port Nightlife Task Force and the Public Safety Committee to craft standards for approving a late night entertainment license and conditions for operating under it.
The ordinance applies to activities that currently require an entertainment license under Chapter 4, Article III (Music, Dance, Entertainment) notably dance halls and concerts both of which are broadly defined in Section 4-42 so that they apply to the normal entertainment in bars and late night establishments providing music or dancing.
The ordinance allows existing late-night licenses for areas outside the Old Port overlay zone to be renewed during the moratorium if late night entertainment has actually been provided.
Staff will ask the Council to postpone the item for public comment and action at the Council level to the June 5th Council meeting. That postponement will allow sufficient time for the item to be taken up by the Public Safety Committee at its May 11th meeting.
This item must be read on two separate days. This is its first reading.