City Code Updates to Nightclubs and Alcohol Sales in Downtown

Together, we have made significant investments to revitalize downtown into the thriving neighborhood and economic hub it is today. A key focus of these efforts is centered around ensuring the foundation of our downtown neighborhood is a safe place that offers a balance of uses that can serve all the needs of the residents, visitors and businesses of today’s downtown. 

As we look to continue to meet the needs of our downtown, city staff have been working on changes to the city code aimed at enhancing safety and balancing the city’s resources. 

View January 2023 public presentation(PDF, 3MB)

Code Changes

Nightclub Moratorium

This moratorium first went into effect on March 20, 2023 and prohibits the opening of new nightclubs in the Community Redevelopment Agency(PDF, 631KB) . On April 1, 2024, City Council extended the moratorium for another six months. On September 20, 2024, the moratorium will expire.

Specifically, the moratorium puts a pause on the acceptance, processing and consideration of any applications for development orders, development permits, building permits and zoning approvals for any new (which includes change of use and substantial improvement) nightclub use.

This proposed extension of the temporary mortarium on the opening of new nightclubs will continue to allow for the city to refine recommended code amendments prior to the moratorium expiring.

Download the Moratorium Ordinance(PDF, 209KB)

After Midnight Alcohol Sales Permit

The permit requires these businesses to:

  • Apply and obtain permit by May 1, 2023. The cost of the permit application is $250.
  • Obtain police protection and security, which could include:
    • Extra duty law enforcement protection outside the business as determined by the Police Chief.
      • This determination will be based on objective factors outlined in the ordinance (size and type of establishment, traffic needs, history of violent incidents, etc.)
      • This would be required Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10:30 p.m. – 3:30 a.m and on the five major holidays in downtown (St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, Fourth of July, Halloween and New Years Eve)
  • May be required to obtain a weapons detection system (e.g. metal detectors) at all entrances between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.
    • Must scan all patrons entering between 10 p.m. and closing
    • Required for all establishments holding a full liquor license (e.g. 4COP Quota, 4COP/SFS, 11CT)
    • If an establishments occupancy is 50 persons or greater, hand-held system (wanding) is required
    • Establishments with occupancy of 49 and lower are exempt
    • Walk-through system may be required for violators
  • State licensed security is only required if a weapons detection system is required
  • Implement Identification (driver license/passport) scanners for all patrons entering between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.
    • Required for all establishments holding a full liquor license (e.g. 4COP Quota, 4COP/SFS, 11CT).
    • Must reject entry to anyone using a fake or duplicate ID.
  • Obtain and utilize an occupancy load monitor system
    • Applies to all establishment types.
    • An accurate count must be kept between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.
    • Count must be provided to all city officials upon request.

The requirements of the permit will be enforced primarily by the city’s Code Enforcement Division and Fire Marshall.

  • Violations of non-compliance will be cited accordingly.
  • Upon a finding by the city’s Code Enforcement Manager of a violation of the enumerated City Codes or Florida Statutes as outlined in the ordinance, any combination thereof, or any violation of any terms of the Permit; the establishment’s permit shall be suspended or revoked as follows:
    • Tiers of violations depending on violation type
    • 1-3 violations prior to suspension, depending on type of violation
    • Establishment/employee culpability (knowingly, reckless, gross negligence or negligence) for most violations, strict liability for some
    • Only public safety violations
    • Hearing officer appointed by the city
    • Suspensions are 30 days 

 

Reapplication after Revocation:

  • Any suspension or revocation will be decided by a hearing officer appointed by the city
    • This is similar to the Vehicle For Hire process.
  • Appeals - 14 days after the issuance of an order of suspension or revocation, the establishment may request a hearing before the Code Enforcement Board.

  • After a revocation, an establishment can reapply for a permit after no less than 365 days. The reapplication must include information explaining the actions that the establishment has taken to prevent the violations that resulted in the past revocation.

Download the After Midnight Alcohol Sales Permit Ordinance(PDF, 203KB)

Download the After Midnight Alcohol Sales Policies(PDF, 190KB)

 

 

   


Timeline

  • January 23, 2023 – 1st read of ordinances and SAFE program expansion at City Council
  • March 20, 2023 – 2nd read of ordinances and Fee Resolution at City Council
  • March 20, 2023 - Moratorium goes into effect
  • May 1, 2023 - After Midnight Alcohol Sales Permit requirement goes into effect
    • SAFE program bonus incentive application deadline
  • July 17, 2023 - 1st read of proposed moratorium six-month extension
  • August 14, 2023 - 2nd read of proposed moratorium six-month extension
  • March 20, 2024 – Original six-month extension of moratorium expiration date
  • February 19, 2024 - 1st read of proposed moratorium six-month extension
  • March 25, 2024 - 2nd read of proposed moratorium six-month extension
  • March 25, 2024 - Moratorium goes into effect
  • September 20, 2024 - Six-month extension of moratorium expiration date

Definition of a Bar, Nightclub and Restaurant

The following definitions were approved and adopted by the City Council at the December 5, 2022, meeting:

Bar: A commercial establishment where the principal use is the sale of alcoholic beverages for consumption on premises. Entertainment and limited food options may be offered but are incidental to the sale of alcoholic beverages. This includes restaurants where greater than 49% of the gross revenue is derived from alcoholic beverage sales. 

Nightclub: Any establishment which provides entertainment after midnight, including but not limited to floor shows, assembly areas, live bands, DJ’s, dancing (by patrons or employees) or other forms of entertainment. These establishments typically have a cover charge or admission, a dance floor or assembly area, offer bottle service, or sell/rent private booths, areas or rooms (excluding theaters).  

Restaurant: A commercial establishment that is open to the public where food and drink is prepared for on-site consumption. Take out or meal delivery may occur but onsite consumption must be able to occur. Restaurants must be licensed through the State of Florida and must derive at least 51% of gross revenue from sales of food and non-alcoholic beverages. Food shall be continuously ready to be prepared, served, and sold during all business operational hours, including when alcoholic beverages are sold, otherwise the use may be a bar or nightclub. 


FAQs

Moratorium

Why are we doing a moratorium?

This “pause” on the opening of new nightclubs provides the city with time to further study the concentration of nightclubs in downtown with the intent of making additional recommendations on how to better support them and to better manage development and zoning implications.  
 
The city is also researching best practices and looking at how other cities help balance these uses.  
 
As downtown has evolved from a thriving entertainment destination into a true neighborhood, it’s important we, as a government, study these changes and the needs this brings to the area so we can better serve all our constituents, residents, businesses and visitors.  
 
Additionally, as the city continues to encourage a variety of uses (including daytime uses), this allows a temporary pause on the continued expansion of one dominant use, nightclubs, which are typically only active at night.  

 

Where does the moratorium apply?

The Community Redevelopment Agency.

View map of area

Does the moratorium apply to businesses that are open but change their name or ownership?

No, this does not impact businesses that are already open and legally operating, regardless of ownership change unless, in conjunction with the name and/or ownership change, a new certificate of use is required under City Code. A new certificate of use is required for any changes in use, name, changes in address, expansion of square footage occupied, or the inclusion of additional uses.

 

However, there are requirements that businesses that change ownership are required to apply for a Special Use Permit within the Downtown Entertainment Area in order to review their security, permitting, and other plans with current requirements. If the establishment is located within the Downtown Entertainment Area (DEA) and wishes to sell alcoholic beverages after midnight, the establishment must apply for an After Midnight Alcohol Sales (AMS) permit.

 

What if a business has already submitted permits to open a nightclub in downtown Orlando?

If a business has already submitted a “substantial permit plan” and it remains open and active, the moratorium will not impact them; the moratorium applies to new business that wish to come into the downtown. 

“Substantial permit plan submittal" means a completed permit application form accompanied by a full set of plans signed and sealed by an authorized design professional. The plan set shall include any relevant civil and site work plans if needed to issue a building permit. 

Will this impact a business that wants to remodel and rebrand an existing nightclub into a new nightclub concept?

This moratorium does not impact the ability of existing nightclubs currently operating within the downtown Orlando Community Redevelopment Area from obtaining a building permit provided such building permit is sought for repair or maintenance of the existing premises.

Why is the city recommending the moratorium be extended?

This “pause” on the opening of new nightclubs provides the city with time to further study the concentration of nightclubs in downtown with the intent of making additional recommendations on how to better support them and to better manage development and zoning implications.
This proposed extension of the temporary mortarium on the opening of new nightclubs will continue to allow for the city to refine recommended code amendments prior to the moratorium expiring.

 

 

 

 

After Midnight Permit

How can I apply for the permit?

If you want to sell alcohol for onsite consumption between the hours of midnight and 2 a.m. in the Downtown Entertainment Area, you will need an After-Midnight Alcohol Sales Permit.

Apply for the permit

 

What is the difference between this permit and the recently approved Special Use Permit?

A business that is selling alcohol after midnight will be required to apply for the Extended Sales of Alcohol Permit but will not be required to also apply for a Special Use Permit.

Are there any businesses exempt from this requirement? And if so, why?

Civic auditoriums and sports arenas, public lodging establishments (hotels) and movie theatres. 

Their principal business is not the sale, service or consumption of alcoholic beverages.

How do you plan on educating downtown nightclubs about items that could result in a violation?

The Downtown Development Board will be doing stakeholder outreach throughout the public process. The ordinance also requires two readings before the City Council which will allow for additional public participation as well.

What will this permit cost?

A new application for permit and all renewal applications will be accompanied by a non-refundable fee – $250 for an annual permit.  This fee will be utilized by the city for its costs to administer the permit program, as well as inspecting and regulating to ensure compliance. 

How long is the permit in effect?

Permits are effective for a 12-month term (unless revoked or suspended) and must be renewed annually.

When does the permit have to be in hand?

Establishments will need to have the permit in hand on May 1, 2023.

 

 

SAFE Program Amendments

Why are we amending this program?

To increase program participation and further incentivize the implementation of security measures that give locals and tourists alike an added sense of safety. 

Encouraging downtown properties to improve safety measures will be beneficial to citizens and attract more people to downtown Orlando.

What are the “eligible improvements”?

  • Security Cameras 
  • Metal Detectors 
  • Identification Scanners 

Can we be reimbursed for improvements we have already purchased?

No grants will be awarded retroactively, which means that funding will not be awarded for eligible products purchased before the approval date of a funding agreement.