Ban on minors in bars to go before officials Tuesday
Manatee to consider ordinance limiting underage access
Herald Staff Writer
MANATEE - Nightclub consultant Rich Unger of Sarasota is pushing local
governments to ban minors from bars.
Manatee County Commissioner Joe McClash listened and said he thinks it is
"He's pretty hot on it," McClash said of Unger. "I certainty felt it was
necessary for us to follow up on it."
County commissioners are scheduled to decide Tuesday whether to instruct
county attorneys to draft a county ordinance regulating the age of people
inside nightclubs and bars.
If they do, attorneys would write it and commissioners would host at least
one public hearing before voting on an ordinance. The process could take
The issue of prohibiting or limiting people ages 20 or younger inside
drinking establishments comes in the wake of young adults and teens being
killed or injured on or near property of nightclubs and bars in Manatee
and Sarasota counties.
"This is a public safety issue," McClash said. "Had it not been for the
injuries to people underneath 21 at these bars or establishments, we
wouldn't be talking about something like this.
"You have to question whether people who are not allowed to be drinking
should be in drinking establishments after a certain time," he said.
"Unfortunately, this community does have a problem with under-age
McClash said he is not sure the ordinance should totally ban minors. He
said he might support a ban only at certain hours late at night, though he
hasn't any specific time frame in mind.
Unger said Friday that people ages 20 and younger visit nightclubs and
bars to be served alcoholic beverages, not to listen to music or socialize
with older friends.
"Their only motive is to get a drink," Unger said. "They are either
drinking or trying to get a drink."
He has lobbied Manatee and Sarasota politicians for months to keep minors
out of bars. He said he is grateful that Manatee commissioners will
consider moving ahead with an ordinance.
"If they don't go forward with this kind of ordinance, then they are
living in the age of dinosaurs," Unger said. "I would be mad as hell if
they don't pass it."
Others think commissioners have better ways to spend their time and money.
"That, to me, is an absolute waste of our taxpayers' money," said Linda
Cinque of Bradenton, owner of Cinque Advertising. "I just don't like to
see our time being spent in places where others have the power to make
their own changes."
Cinque wrote a letter this week to The Herald expressing her views and
expanded on them during an interview Friday.
"I think it's up to the business owners to enforce what they feel they
need to do to limit their liability," Cinque said. "My position is it is
not up to government to regulate how a business is run.
"I believe in less government," she said. "I don't think we are talking
about a (political party) philosophy. I think we are talking about common
County attorneys informed commissioners that state law and court cases
suggest that they have authority to regulate the age of patrons in
businesses serving alcoholic beverages.
Assistant County Attorney Robert Eschenfelder wrote a memo recommending
that any ordinance include "a firm factual record of the types of
negative, harmful, immoral or dangerous circumstances the commission
desires to halt or lessen."
He explained that "proceeding carefully would help ensure the ordinance
would withstand the almost certain legal challenge" from businesses
catering to younger crowds.