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Tuesday, Mar 28, 2017

Council will consider Coyote Ugly security concerns

— The Tampa City Council will decide the fate of the Coyote Ugly Saloon now that police have repeatedly warned the popular Ybor City bar for failing to provide enough security.

City rules require bars in downtown, Ybor City and Channelside to hire off-duty law-enforcement officers on nights they expect to have more than 250 patrons at once.

City attorneys say Coyote Ugly violated that requirement five times on weekends between late November and early March. On nights it was cited, the bar ranged from 286 patrons to 741.

Assistant City Attorney Rebecca Kert said the Tampa Police Department gave the bar’s owner warnings about the need to hire extra security, but they went unheeded.

“They were well aware of it,” Kert said.

Jeff Wiseman, spokesman for Coyote Ugly’s corporate office in Smyrna, Ga., was unaware of the trouble at the Tampa location. Each bar is independently owned and licenses the Coyote Ugly name, he said.

Victor DiMaio, spokesman for the Tampa location’s owners, said his clients have met the city’s security requirements since March. That included paying a $4,000 deposit to Tampa police to have two off-duty officers on hand between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday nights.

Uniformed off-duty officers cost bars $41 per hour for security duty.

“Even if we don’t hit 250, we have two cops,” DiMaio said.

DiMaio suggested Coyote Ugly the city is being singled out by convening the hearing before the council.

The city council issues dozens of alcohol permits each year. Suspension or revocation hearings are rare.

In the wake of shootings at some Tampa bars and noise complaints about others, council members are promising to get tougher on businesses that serve alcohol. The city can’t revoke state-issued liquor licenses, but it can act against city-issued operating permits that allow alcohol sales on a given piece of property.

Council members backed off a proposal late last year to create an after-hours permit for bars and restaurants that want to operate between midnight and 3 a.m. That and other ideas could return for discussion when the council meets in a workshop session June 19.

City officials originally planned to send Coyote Ugly’s case to the city council for punishment this week, but one of the police officers involved is away so the hearing has been delayed until June 26.

Kert said city officials plan to press forward with their case against Coyote Ugly even though the bar meets city rules now. Doing so will create the first piece of a paper trail that could be used to revoke the bar’s operating permit if it continues to violate city rules, Kert said.

City council members will have the option of suspending Coyote Ugly’s city-issued permit for up to 30 days or even going to far as to revoke it. The property at 1720-1722 East Seventh Ave. has had a permit to sell alcohol since Jan. 23, 1997.


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Twitter: @kwiatrowskiTBO