Bars and liquor stores can officially sell alcohol 24 hours a day in unincorporated Brevard County — for now.
In a 4-1 vote Tuesday, the County Commission approved a closely watched ordinance eliminating restrictions on the hours that alcoholic beverages can be sold at licensed establishments in unincorporated parts of the county.
Commissioner Bryan Lober voted against the measure.
The motion, which came up for a vote once before at the April 20 meeting, previously was tabled to give Lober time to support his worry the change could lead to more drunken drivers at the same time children were heading to school in the mornings.
Lober said Tuesday the only example his staff could find was a 2015 pilot program in Cape Coral that extended drinking hours from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. The program lasted one year, Lober said.
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“They found the DUIs, to my understanding, as well as various infractions, did in fact go up,” Lober said at the meeting.
Then-Cape Coral Police Chief David Newlan said the program led to more service calls in the city during the extended hours and higher costs for officer overtime pay, the News-Press reported in 2018.
Commissioner John Tobia, who proposed repealing the sales restrictions, pooh-poohed Lober’s example, calling it “at best, anecdotal.”
“I appreciate Commissioner Lober trying to find an answer to a problem that really didn’t exist until he brought it up,” Tobia said. “Lacking any data to support this, I would like to move forward with the motion.”
Tobia previously said he introduced the motion as a way to roll back unnecessary government regulation.
“For me, I just look at this as a market-driven thing. … If you can get business in the door at 6 in the morning, you’re going to open at 6 in the morning,” Commissioner Curt Smith said. “I don’t see that there’s a need to do it, but I don’t see any harm to do it, either.”
Lober reiterated his support for legislation that limited 24-hour alcohol sales to the weekend, which drew no agreement from the board.
But Commission Chair Rita Pritchett left the door open to revisiting the ordinance at a future date — if Lober could produce compelling reasons to do so.
“If you keep track on this, and we find there’s any increased statistics, I will support you if you bring something back to start limiting times again,” Pritchett said.
The repeal does not affect restrictions in Brevard’s cities and towns, which regulate their own alcohol sales.
The county previously restricted alcohol sales between 2 and 7 a.m. The only exception was New Year’s Eve, which allowed the sale and consumption of alcohol until 4 a.m. on Jan. 1.
Eric Rogers is the politics and government reporter for FLORIDA TODAY. Please consider subscribing to support important local news on government, business, crime and other topics you care about.
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