Effort to curb drink specials in bars put on hold for now

Published: Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at 7:21 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at 7:26 p.m.

Ladies night is safe for now, despite an effort to regulate drink specials at bars.

A committee of the Florida Board of Governors, which oversees state universities, considered a proposal Wednesday that would allow municipalities to regulate ladies nights and all-you-can-drink deals. Such regulatory powers currently rest with the state, but have been long sought by Gainesville and other cities.

But perhaps indicative of the struggle in getting lawmakers to support such a plan, the board's student affairs and campus life committee declined to vote on the measure. Instead, committee chairwoman Ann Duncan said, members would first meet with representative of the alcohol industry and others before moving forward.

Even before the meeting, Gainesville City Commissioner Jeanna Mastrodicasa said she would be "extremely surprised" if such legislation passed this year.

"The reality is the alcohol industry is extremely powerful (and) it is an election year," she said.

The proposal would allow cities and counties to regulate drink specials that are based on gender. It would also let them to restrict specials offering drinks for a fixed price or a price lower than wholesale costs. If state lawmakers pass the plan, municipalities would still need to pass their own ordinances to implement such restrictions.

Rick McAllister, president and CEO of the Florida Retail Federation, said such "government intrusion" doesn't necessarily address the problems such as drunk driving and underage drinking.

"It's probably not a good idea for government to get involved with something like that," he said.

Gainesville and UF officials have targeted drink specials in efforts to address binge drinking among students. The city has included the issue on its legislative agenda several times over the years.

Mastrodicasa, who also serves as vice president of student affairs at the University of Florida, said specials encouraging "risky behavior" were problems rather than two-for-one deals and other standard specials at restaurants. She cited specials such as free or inexpensive drinks for women, nickel beers and unlimited drinks for a fixed price.

"These are the kind of drink specials that create a problem for us," such as students being robbed or sexually assaulted, she said.

Banning drink specials can have the opposite of the intended effect, said T.J. Goodman, co-owner of Mother's Pub & Grill. Bars that offer inexpensive drinks during limited hours can decide to extend the specials to all day to comply with the law, he said.

"More often than not, it has unintended consequences when you do that," he said.

Contact Nathan Crabbe at 338-3176 or nathan.crabbe@gvillesun.co. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/nathancrabbe.

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

▲ Return to Top