Naples council OKs changing code to allow alcohol sales in city until 2 a.m. Mondays

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— Get ready to stay out late, Naples.

Naples City Council on Monday said it supported changing the city’s laws to allow bars and restaurants to serve and sell alcohol until 2 a.m., seven days a week. The decision comes one month after the owners of Paddy Murphy’s requested the city consider a change that would align Naples laws with those of unincorporated Collier County.

Councilwomen Teresa Heitmann and Dee Sulick were against the request, and both women cited protecting the city’s character as the reason for their dissent.

“I happen to feel we need to keep this in place,” Sulick said. “I know it’s only one evening, but let’s give residents … one evening where you don’t have doors slamming at 2 a.m. or 2:15 a.m.”

Naples code allows restaurants and bars to sell and serve alcohol on Sunday from 7 a.m. to midnight, which is considered the end of the day. Those hours of operation have been on the books since the 1990s, and restaurants have been allowed to sell alcohol on Sundays since the 1980s.

In the unincorporated area of Collier County, bars and restaurants with a valid license can sell or serve alcoholic beverages between 7 a.m. and 2 a.m., seven days a week. The same holds true for restaurants and bars in Lee County.

Paddy Murphy’s co-owner Mike O’Regan last month said the city’s midnight cutoff is problematic at his bar. O’Regan said his bar loses up to 100 customers, or between $2,000 and $3,000, each Sunday night because of the current law.

O’Regan on Monday said it was nice to see the council took his concerns to heart.

“It feels pretty good,” he said of the decision.

Not everyone was pleased with the council’s action, though. Naples resident Sue Smith echoed the concerns of Sulick and Heitmann and said later hours of operation could put a damper on Naples’ reputation.

“This council has taken steps that are detrimental to the well-being of Naples. You have an agenda or a lack of foresight. You made decisions recently … that did not show wisdom or vision for the people of Naples,” Smith said.

“You are not being faithful to the well-being of the little township of Naples, Florida,” she added.

But council members said they didn’t believe two hours, one night a week, was going to put a damper on Naples’ character. “The reality is we just don’t have a problem with businesses abusing the privilege. We don’t get a lot of noise complaints,” said Councilman Gary Price. “If that two hours changes our character, then we have some other things to work on.”

Council members agreed and said the 2 a.m. rule was already in place six nights a week.

But don’t expect a bevy of bars and restaurants to fling open their doors until 2 a.m. Monday once the change goes into place. O’Regan said his bar is one of the only in town that stays open until 2 a.m., and he doesn’t expect that to change once the law is altered.

In addition to extending the hours that bars and restaurants are allowed to sell alcohol, Naples City Council is also expected to clean up the language in the existing city code. The current law references bottle clubs, something council members on Monday said they don’t think exist any longer in the city.

Naples City Council will vote on the ordinance during the March 2 City Council meeting.

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