Arreola pushes for bar curfew, says he’s “done dealing with people who are lying about this pandemic”


During commission comment in the Gainesville City Commission meeting on October 15, Commissioner Gigi Simmons brought up “unintended consequences” from the City’s new ordinance that allows open containers of alcohol on public property during the state of emergency. She said that large gatherings are taking place, “particularly in one particular neighborhood,” and she’s seeing increased litter in various parts of town: “It’s just becoming visibly upsetting, not just to me, but people in the community, and so I really want us to maybe rethink or address that ordinance. I’m not saying that’s the catalyst for a lot of the behavior that’s been exhibited throughout the community, but I think that may be part of an unintended consequence. So I don’t know how you all feel about it, but I’m very concerned about the large gatherings, people not wearing masks, not practicing social distancing, and we pretty much have our hands tied.”

City Manager Lee Feldman said he believed Simmons was referring to “an event that occurred before COVID and is occurring now during COVID, and that’s the gathering surrounding the Fletcher’s bar off of 5th, and they’re certainly drinking out there, what we’ll call the red cup drinking; that is occurring, but it was also occurring before COVID.”

Assistant Police Chief Lonnie Scott said it’s been an ongoing problem because the bar is in a residential neighborhood, and people come to that bar from surrounding counties. He said the noise level has gotten bad in the neighborhood, and he knows of one family that just leaves town on Friday night and comes back on Monday to avoid the weekend problems: “there’s a fear, quite frankly, of the volume of people on the streets.” He said GPD has had to put 17 officers in that location when 19 are working, leaving only 2 officers for the rest of the city. He said the open container ordinance was a contributing factor, but not the only factor. He also said GPD is working with the City Attorney’s office to come up with a nuisance ordinance that would penalize properties that require an unusual number of calls.

Mayor Lauren Poe suggested amending the open container ordinance so that it only applied in certain districts such as entertainment districts or downtown. 

Commissioner David Arreola said he had warned about exactly these types of problems when he opposed the open container ordinance. He continued, “As far as the general issue with bars packing, I think it’s time we considered a bar curfew. Whatever Florida state law will allow, I think we need to put it on. People obviously aren’t listening. There are bar owners that are being dishonest and spreading misinformation about COVID-19. Frankly, I’m done dealing with people who are lying about this pandemic, and so I think with we need to be very strict, and I understand that there’s the added issue of well, you know, if it’s not going to be at the bar, it’s going to be on private property. I don’t think that’s as prevalent as you may think. You know, it’s a lot easier to congregate at a bar than it is—and certainly most, and I mean this, most of the sort of college-aged crowd, they’re doing the right thing. It’s just the subset that continues to believe the lies that are being rattled by the President of the United States, so I think we need to be much more strict.”

Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos said Fletcher’s has been a problem for years, but he didn’t support changing the open container ordinance: “Even tonight, I was planning on a friend of mine who—we’re socially distancing, we’re going to walk on the sidewalk, be socially distanced, and have a beer… It’s a way for us to be able to interact, but to be socially distanced and still go out for a drink.”

Poe added, “I really believe with these few bars, these small number of bars, that what would happen is if we shut down at 11:00 or 12:00, those folks would all go to somewhere, to some after-party. So I think that the people that go to those bars are uninterested in the dangers of COVID-19. You know, they’re the 5%, they’re the few that are just, along with… the folks promoting it that are just not complying. So I don’t know.”

Commissioner Harvey Ward said he was concerned about the problem but didn’t support a curfew. 

Arreola moved “some pretty simple staff direction, that we ask our staff, our charter officers, to come back with recommendations to regulate large open container parties, and also to come back with options for alcohol sale curfews… and that we also include RTS fare-free service for election day” (the commission had earlier discussed their desire to provide free bus rides for everyone on election day).

The motion passed unanimously with Commissioner Gail Johnson absent. 

  • Does that snot-nosed, charged with DUI, charged with drug possession, habitual traffic offender who still suckles on his momma know we wish we could “be done with him” and his $0ci@li$t politics?
    Maybe he should read something besides his propaganda rag.

  • Simmons proved just how little and how uninvolved in the community she is. Harvey “Two Face” once again deferred, Johnson absent…again. Poe admitted what anyone with any common sense knows, “I don’t know.”

  • >