Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Lawsuit Questions City Rule on Alcohol; 2 Men Arrested in What Will Be a Party Zone around the Super Bowl Say the Law Is Arbitrary

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Lawsuit Questions City Rule on Alcohol; 2 Men Arrested in What Will Be a Party Zone around the Super Bowl Say the Law Is Arbitrary

Article excerpt

Byline: PAUL PINKHAM, The Times-Union

Two homeless men are challenging Jacksonville's public drinking ordinance, saying it is selectively enforced in light of the city's waiver of the law throughout downtown during upcoming Super Bowl festivities.

Police arrested Thomas A. Worley and Michael R. Johnson, both 39, in February in Treaty Oak Park on the Southbank on charges of drinking in public.

The park is inside a 2 1/2-mile entertainment zone the City Council adopt- ed in May and in effect for 18 days leading up to next year's Super Bowl. Laws against open alcohol containers, noise pollution and outdoor alcohol sales on city property will be suspended in the zone.

That decision, which Assistant Public Defender Tyler McKinney argues will benefit the well-heeled Super Bowl attendees, shows how easily the law can be manipulated to discriminate against the poor, she wrote in a court motion.

"The event traditionally draws in superstars, celebrities, rock stars, sport stars, business people, CEOs and other affluent people. In order to avoid having any of our visitors arrested for violating the Jacksonville ordinance, the council has taken it upon themselves to relax the standards," McKinney wrote in asking a judge to dismiss charges against Worley and Johnson. "The city's actions . . . show that the ordinance has room for selective enforcement and should therefore be held unconstitutionally vague."

Duval County Judge Charles Cofer scheduled a hearing on McKinney's motion July 23, and he has alerted City Hall attorneys. They plan to defend the ordinance.

"Just like the zoning laws, we're allowed to have different activities in different locations. As long as there's a legitimate basis for the exemption, we'll be OK," said Assistant General Counsel Scott Makar. "There's a reasonable expectation that there will be some drinking around the Super Bowl, and better to contain it than to not contain it."

The NFL typically requires such entertainment zones in host cities during the weeks leading up to a Super Bowl in order to extend the festival atmosphere surrounding the game. The zone also protects the game and its sponsors from "ambush marketing" by creating a tightly regulated entertainment area, said Super Bowl Host Committee President Michael Kelly. …

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