Pubdate: Wed, 12 Jun 2002
Source: Charlotte Creative Loafing (NC)
Copyright: 2002 Creative Loafing Charlotte, Inc.
Author: Tara Servatius
Bookmark: (Raves)


Staying Open Past City Council's Bed Time Costs Them Big

It's getting ridiculously expensive for dance clubs to stay open after
2:30am, say some of the owners of Charlotte's hottest clubs. Last
year, when the Charlotte City Council voted to force dance club owners
who wanted to stay open into the wee hours of the morning to get a
dance hall permit, city officials said that club owners could obtain
the permit for a nominal fee.

Club owner Andy Kastanas took that to mean that the permit might cost
him around $100. But since the ordinance went into effect last July,
the already pricey fees for the permit have nearly tripled. Combined
fees and charges for a 2003 permit now total $2,210. That's a big jump
from the fees the police department charged in 2002, when total fees
for the permit came to $760.

"I'm just so tired of messing with these people," said Kastanas. "We
were promised these fees would be very minimal."

Police department spokesperson Keith Bridges said that that's because
the department expected that about 30 clubs would apply for permits in
2002. Only 11 have applied. According to city policy, Bridges said,
the department is supposed to recover 60 percent of the full cost of
running the permit program. Bridges says the program costs $41,607 to

Bridges says that fees have also gone up because in 2002, the police
didn't factor in the cost of the salary of an ABC officer who
dedicates about 15 percent of her time to enforcing the ordinance. The
cost of running the program is determined by taking a percentage of
the salaries of the entire chain of command responsible for enforcing
the ordinance.

Kastanas, who owns Mythos dance club, says he's not sure what the club
is getting for its money because he hasn't seen much of a police
presence in the area. But Sergeant Eddie Levins says that most of the
enforcement checks the department does utilize undercover police
officers, so Kastanas wouldn't necessarily know they were present at
his club.

City council members first focused their attention on the dance clubs
after police reported to the city's public safety committee that
illegal teenage dance and drug parties called raves were taking place
in rented warehouses, fields and other out-of-the-way places. Though
there was little or no relation between the established dance clubs
and the fly-by-night teen parties, the city decided to target dance
clubs that cater to adults by forcing them to get permits to stay open
later on the theory that teens sometimes snuck into the clubs.

The dance hall ordinance requires any club not already regulated by
the state or county Alcohol Beverage Control Board to obtain a
one-year permit from the city to operate. ABC permitted clubs that
cater to 18-and-over patrons are also required to obtain a permit to
stay open after 2:30am. According to the ordinance, teen clubs can
keep their doors open Sunday through Thursday until 11pm and until
midnight on weekends.

The police-issued permit can be suspended or revoked if operators
knowingly allow illegal drug use inside or violate ABC laws. Club
owners who don't get permits can be fined up to $500 a day for keeping
their doors open past the curfew.
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