No booze in the bleachers at Bucs' first home game

08/02/07 Mitch E. Perry
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The Tampa City Council today refused to rubber stamp a wet zoning proposal for hard liquor to be served at Tampa Bay Bucanneer games.

Spirits are currently served at Raymond James Stadium, but only in the exclusive luxury suites and club seat sections of the facility. The proposal up for approval today would have granted every fan the opportunity to purchase liquor beginning next week.

One citizen pleaded before the Council not to allow it to happen.

Karen Hernandez is the head of Public Policy for the Tampa Alcohol Coalition, and a former waitress. She says this issue would affect the health and welfare in the Hillsborough County area, and said there was a difference between serving beer and wine and hard liquor.

An attorney representing the stadium said that there has been no notable negative affects with the 14,000 fans who had to access hard liquor at Bucs games in the past few years. And he said the 225 uniformed police officers at every game have never had a problem controlling excessive behavior. He added that stadium personnel are granted the power not to serve alcohol to those who appear inebriated.

Although the City Council quickly approved the proposal on first reading twp weeks ago, members seemed to understand the ramifications of approving such a proposal only at today’s second hearing.

City Councilman John Dingfelder said he felt conflicted. He expressed regret that the Council approved a measure three years allowing booze in the luxury suites and club seats, but acknowledged they could not rescind that vote.

City Councilwoman Mary Mulhern said in the two weeks since the Council’s initial approval, more time had allowed her to see the public health, safety and welfare issues involved in the vote.

She said that she’d like to have the Tampa Police Department research statistically if there are more accidents and violence near stadiums that do allow consumption of hard liquor. She said that although the St. Pete Times Forum and Tropicana Field also serve hard liquor, it was a different element at Raymond James Stadium, at least for Bucs games.

A Tampa Police official said the research would be challenging, considering that statistics aren’t kept on DUI arrests of where those arrested were coming from.

Holland & Knight Attorney John Marshall tried to rebut the caution expressed by some City Council members by saying he didn’t believe adding hard liquor to the conditions that already exist during Sunday afternoons at Raymond James would cause any undue burdens for the city.

The Bucaneers' first home game of the 2007 season is Aug. 10 against the New England Patriots.

But Councilman Charlie Miranda said that it will take time to do a fair study of the questions asked by council members.

As the Bucs come off a 4-12 season, City Councilman John Dingfelder couldn’t resist a cheap shot at Malcolm Glazier’s organization.

The issue will come back before the City Council in four weeks, on Aug. 30. That’s the date of the second pre-season home game.

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