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Thursday, December 02, 2004

Dancing in the Streets

Gainesville city officials are finally talking about revamping the worthless anti-dancing law passed several years ago as a way to combat to so-called scourge of "raves".

At the time, I spent considerable political capital with city commissioners I considered my allies in a failed effort to prevent this law from being enacted. Essentially, the law says that any place that serves alcohol must make people leave at 2 p.m., when the legal drinking time ends. This was meant to cut the feet off of dance clubs that remained opened much later, even all night, so young people could dance and have fun together.

Yes, some of these dancers were using drugs, such as ecstasy, and no doubt some club owners were well aware of this and even booked DJs whose music played to the altered mindsets of such folks. But to believe that outlawing dance clubs after 2 a.m. would reduce drug use was ignorant. Possession of drugs is already a felony and can land you in prison, not to mention the possible societal repercussions, so if that doesn't stop someone, then why would a law banning dance clubs after 2 a.m.?

The answer: it won't, and it didn't. The use of X is determined by supply and demand. Simple as that.

So while drug use was not impacted, the bottom line of many clubs was. And worse, club owners noticed a negative side effect from the new law – huge crowds of people forced onto the streets simultaneously at 2 a.m. There are many tales of fights, car accidents, and other problems caused by these crowds, who previously had been able to trickle out of clubs. The 2 a.m. law also prevented clubs from letting drunks sober up before heading home.

Now it seems that even the more conservative members of the City Commission feel a repeal, or at least a compromise, is needed.

“If you shut off drinking at 2 a.m. and the bars are able to stay open until 4 a.m., it’s clear you won’t have the same number of people hitting the streets at the same time,” Commissioner Tony Domenech told The Independent Florida Alligator.

I'll drink to that.

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