Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

City Weighs Last Call of 4 A.M. Downtown; Backers Support Its Role in Entertainment District; Others Say It's Not Fair to Everyone

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

City Weighs Last Call of 4 A.M. Downtown; Backers Support Its Role in Entertainment District; Others Say It's Not Fair to Everyone

Article excerpt

Byline: GREGORY RICHARDS, The Times-Union

While last call across most of Jacksonville would stay at 2 a.m., a bill pending before the City Council would push it to 4 a.m. at some nightspots.

The legislation would extend the time alcoholic beverages could be served throughout roughly half of downtown and much of the Southbank. It would encompass an area downtown from Monroe Street on the north to the St. Johns River on the south and from Interstate 95 on the west to A. Philip Randolph Boulevard on the east. The affected Southbank section would stretch from the river on the north to the interstate on the south and from the Acosta Bridge on the west to Kings Avenue on the east.

"We've always said we want a 24-hour downtown," said Councilwoman Suzanne Jenkins, the bill's sponsor. "We have to start somewhere."

Jenkins said pouring alcohol for another two hours would help solidify downtown as an entertainment district. It would allow people leaving a late show or event at a downtown venue to grab dinner and a drink before heading home. And it would attract additional bars and restaurants, in turn generating more downtown residents who want to be near the added excitement.

Jenkins said doing all that wouldn't cost the city anything.

The area Jenkins chose to incorporate in the bill, which was introduced earlier this week, was somewhat strategic. She kept the northern boundary at Monroe Street so it wouldn't reach First Baptist Church, one of Jacksonville's largest churches, farther to the north. The Rev. Jerry Vines, the church's pastor, couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday.

Several people find that vision appealing, although the idea isn't without detractors.

"We're all talking about bringing downtown back to life," said Toney Sleiman, owner of The Jacksonville Landing, a collection of shops, bars and restaurants that are included in bill's downtown impact area. "This is a way to do it."

Sleiman said his 21-year-old son and 23-year-old daughter don't even leave home to go out until about 10 p. …

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