During the first of two public hearings regarding amending Plant City’s alcohol ordinance, the public remained silent. The decision is entering its final hearing on April 8.
The Sadye Gibbs Martin Auditorium nearly reached capacity Monday evening as folks piled in to hear the result of several map amendments and see what would be said regarding the proposed amendment to the city’s alcohol ordinance.
Nearly 80 percent of those in attendance stated they were there to observe the public hearing for the alcohol ordinance and many privately voiced their support of the proposed change. While the alterations are small, it would allow for the sale of wine or beer in businesses that were not massive full-fledged restaurants downtown.
Several other public hearings came prior to the alcohol ordinance and when it was finally read from the dais the crowd suddenly sat up straight in their chairs. Many leaned over and began whispering to their neighbor and several took out their phones to record what was about to be said. Anticipating an onslaught of comments from the crowd, Mayor Rick Lott opened the hearing with a small suggestion to help the meeting move at an organized pace.
“This is a public hearing, anyone interested in speaking before the commission is welcome to participate,” Lott said. “After walking around and shaking a lot of your hands before the meeting started I realize most of you are here for this hearing. I’m anticipating lots of thoughts and, if you want, one person from each organization can come up to the podium and speak and then everyone in support of what was said can stand. Or we’re more than happy to listen to each and every one of you. Whatever you prefer.”
Until the ordinance is changed the only way a business can sell alcohol in Plant City is if it has a restaurant license and a floor capacity of no less than 2,500 square feet and no fewer than 100 seats. A majority percentage of the restaurant’s income would also have to come from non-alcohol sales and thus any tiny venue like a wine bar or brewery would be hard put to meet the code.
Changes would merely alter some of the wording, welcoming smaller businesses and loosening the regulations on what a venue had to look like to be able to sell a glass of wine.
The petition for a change was spearheaded by Plant City Main Street, who said in public meetings they hope altering the ordinance will help breathe life into downtown and one day Midtown and help transform Plant City into a “destination.”
During a Main Street meeting in January regarding the issue several businessmen in the community including Jake Austin, president of the Plant City EDC, and Jay Hollenkamp, co-manager of Cocktail Caviar and owner of a building in historic downtown, said they have had multiple businesses approach them wanting to create a microbrewery or wine bar similar to those found in Lakeland and Tampa right here in Plant City.
Without a change, however, those businesses will continue to plant their roots elsewhere.
It’s a discussion that in the past has caused quite a stir in the community, as was evident by the filled seats Monday night. However, when Lott opened the floor everyone looked around, but no one came up to the mic.
After a long pause, Lott announced the second public hearing would be held April 8 and commissioners would then take a vote on how to tackle the ordinance.