Two Florida cities have responded to the state's recent anti-rave legislation with diametrically opposite actions of their own this week.
On Monday, the Orlando general assembly upheld the state bill to axe
raves, after-hour dance parties, voting to force venues that serve alcohol to shut their doors at 3 a.m., one hour after last call. Meanwhile, 100 miles away in Gainesville, the City Commission voted to permit the electronica-saturated, all-night events to go on, allowing bars to stay open 24 hours, provided alcohol
sales end at 2 a.m.
Subsequently, each city's decision has received mixed reaction from its residents.
Jon, Marsa, the 34-year-old co-owner of Orlando's Club at the Firestone, called his city's vote "well intended, but misdirected," adding that it may "complicate and exacerbate the situation they're trying to resolve."
The state legislation, passed in May, requires that club doors close at
whatever time localities stop alcohol sales, but leaves the door open for
communities to override the law by passing their own statutes. Supporters of the state law hope that by prohibiting clubs (most ready-equipped with dance floors, lights and sound systems) from being used for raves, the law will shut down a convenient venue for drug transactions.
Opponents such as Marsa counter that the legislation will instead drive raves into
vacant warehouses, or open fields -- places without security officers to prevent drug sales from occurring.
Marsa argued that raves held at his club did not offer a safe haven for drug deals. "If there were improprieties at the Club, if the Club was permissive regarding drugs or any illegal activities, our beverage license would have been suspended or revoked a long time ago," Marsa said. "We've practically single-handedly turned what was a permissive late-night scene in bars in Orlando in the past -- in other bars -- into a very pro-active, anti-drug scene where it's obviously not tolerated in any way, shape or form."
Marsa, who opened the Club in 1993 and has hosted the all-hours dance parties for three years, added that by forcing clubs to close at 3 a.m., Orlando is pushing drivers out on the street before they've had a chance to get sober. "It doesn't do justice to the citizens of the city of Orlando. It's just the paternalistic type of government we have here. They seem to think that regulating morals is
Joe Robinson, head of Orlando's Rave Review Task Force, argues, however, that the ordinance gives people who have been drinking an hour to finish drinking and sober up. "Our feelings were that it's better to have a buffer so that
everybody doesn't have to run out after slamming down alcohol at last
Robinson said that the council meeting where the measure was passed, in a 5-to-2 vote, was "standing room only," and estimated that up to 70 percent of the
speakers spoke out against the ordinance.
Meanwhile, Gainesville's Deborah Hirneise, the assistant to the commission, was present for Monday night's 4-to-1 vote there, where prior to the state legislation clubs could stay open round the clock. "What was basically being said is that this is how it was done in the past, before the law had gone into
effect," Hirneise said.
"There were no major problems for the police, no major incidents that had occurred due to the fact that some of the bars were staying open longer," she said. "They felt it was safer to be at the bars, rather than going into individual neighborhoods or taking their party elsewhere." [Thurs., Sept. 11, 1997, 9 a.m. PST]