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What is a ‘night club’?

Written by on Friday, September 22, 2023

Amid noise complaints, City of Sarasota planning commissioners pondered that question.

By Sarah Malickson

Original Air Date: Sept. 22, 2023


Host: Nighttime noise is a big deal for condo dwellers in downtown Sarasota; but music also feeds businesses and makes the district vibrant. Yesterday, the City of Sarasota planning commission pondered changes to the definition of night clubs, restaurants and bars. WSLR News reporter Sarah Malickson followed their discussions and the input from citizens.

 Sarah Malickson: With most things in life, it’s important to strike a balance, and that is just what downtown Sarasota residents and business owners are hoping to find.  

Since a City of Sarasota planning commission meeting June 8 about changes to zoning codes, there has been an ongoing discussion surrounding late-night noise. During a presentation that day, City Planning Director Steve Cover said that some businesses are classified as night clubs but are not operating as such. In other instances, restaurants are operating like night clubs. Cover says the goal of the presentation was to define business codes and clarify their regulations.  

1350 Main Condominiums

One restaurant, in particular, has received noise complaints from nearby residents. El Melvin at 1355 Main Street is located across from the 1350 Main Condominiums. A resident of 1350 Main says that the restaurant becomes a night club at 10 pm on weekends, playing loud music until 2 am.  

But Cover says noise is not a part of what the planning commission is discussing.  A separate ordinance addresses that.  

Nevertheless, noise is the – well – underlying noise in the planning committee’s deliberations.  

Most attendees at the June planning commission meeting agreed that downtown Sarasota is both a residential area and a business district. They expressed that dining and entertainment activities keep the city vibrant, and both uses must coexist.  

Yesterday, the planning board set out to define business codes and make suggestions how to amend the city’s zoning codes for bars, restaurants and night clubs. The board suggested the definition of night clubshould be a commercial establishment that operates after 11:00 p.m., Sunday through Thursday and operates after 11:59 p.m. Friday, Saturday, and the day prior to a holiday. It includes a bar and live music, such as DJs or bands, and may include a dance area or a restaurant. Restaurants, bars, outdoor bars and bottle clubs that meet this criteria and offer or allow alcoholic beverages for sale and/or consumption on the premises and offer live music will be considered a night club.  

Cover reiterated that Thursday’s discussion would not be centered around noise. 

Steve Cover: Keep in mind, as we go through this, this is not an issue that really deals with noise. There’s been a lot of feedback over all our public outreach meetings about noise, but this is really not about noise. It’s really about making changes to the zoning code and clearing up definitions and process, what things are allowed in certain zoning districts, and that kind of thing. It’s purely related to zoning.

S.M.: However, public speakers still came with plenty to say on the topic of noise, as well as about garbage and outdoor smoking. The Smokin’ Joe’s restaurant was brought up, due to its proximity to other businesses and residential buildings. Smokin’ Joe’s permits outdoor smoking. Bandito’s is another restaurant that was mentioned. It opens an outdoor, rooftop bar in the evenings, sometimes drawing attention from local law enforcement. 

Neighbor:  The way that building is structured, they can put a bar under a roof and have the roof open. And in fact, it’s a rooftop open bar. By the way, the current definitions in the zoning text amendment would permit that to happen. Once that happens, that sets a precedent. Mr. Cover at the beginning mentioned that the zoning text amendments have nothing to do with noise. I contend it has everything to do with noise.


S.M.: Jamie Brouster, a business owner, expressed that changing these definitions could affect businesses. Brouster worries that with these changes, it will be difficult to keep her business afloat.  

 Jamie Brouster: I feel like restaurant, bars and night clubs are being targeted by these changes. I know they do need to be changed, but we’re not asking for these changes. We are desperately trying to keep our businesses alive. We were closed for six and a half months during COVID. We’re lucky to be here. 

 The planning commission approved the amendments, and they will now go to the city commission for review.  

 This has been Sarah Malickson with WSLR News.  


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