Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Clay Looks at Another Way to Fight Wells Road Crime

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Clay Looks at Another Way to Fight Wells Road Crime

Article excerpt

Byline: Beth Reese Cravey

The Clay County Commission will consider the second of two measures Tuesday to curb growing crime in the Wells Road corridor by restricting the large nightclubs that operate there in the late-night, early-morning hours.

The commission will hold a public hearing and vote on a proposed zoning code change that would prohibit new large clubs from opening in the corridor and require existing large clubs there to "cease operations" in their current locations in five years.

Residents who live in the area said they welcomed the commission's attention. The clubs, they said, generate crime, noise and littering and are not compatible with nearby neighborhoods.

"Patrons leaving the clubs ... have little regard for public safety," said Jennifer Ryder, secretary of the Wells Lake homeowners group, "and a complete lack of respect for our community."

If approved, the zoning change would follow a new ordinance requiring the large nightclubs on Wells Road to halt alcohol sales at 11 p.m., four hours earlier than their current 2 a.m. closing time on most days. The commission approved that ordinance May 10, to take effect in about 30 days.

That ordinance applies to establishments operating under quota alcohol sales licenses on premises larger than 4,750 square feet within 500 feet on either side of Wells Road from the Orange Park town limits to just west of Blanding Boulevard in the unincorporated area of the county, according to County Attorney Mark Scruby. The zoning code change would apply to the same general area.

Representatives of the affected businesses - Club Christopher's, Club Chameleon Cafe and Cadillac Ranch, part of Crazy Horse Saloon - said the alcohol sales time change was unfair. The majority of their business comes after 11 p.m., they said, and cutting off alcohol sales at that time could shut them down in as little as 30 days. Hundreds of employees would lose jobs, they added.

"The large lounges are being held responsible for all of the crime statistics up and down the Wells Road corridor," said Christopher James Bonnell, general manager of Club Christopher's. "We do everything in our power to keep patrons safe. …

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