NIGHTLIFE, from Page 1
It also connects businesses with associations designed to assist them and encourages enrollment in educational opportunities provided by national associations.
To address public nuisances, the initiative passed the Nighttime Disturbance Ordinance, which created a new law against loud noises, threats or fighting occurring in public places in commercial or industrial zones from midnight to 5 a. m.
The transportation alternative portion of the initiative has taken three major steps to improve options for those frequenting nightlife establishments. First, it has worked to raise awareness among the public about late-night transit service options. Second, it recently established late-night taxi zones at five different locations throughout the city.
Pickus said that taxi zones not only help with safety but that they are budget-friendly for the city, as well.
“Because budgets are so tight across government, at the state, county and city level[s], it’s really difficult to launch a big, new thing right now. So what we’re looking for is what we can do with our existing resources,” he explained. “A couple of weeks ago we announced the five new taxi stands.”
Basically, it’s a well-marked area on the curb where taxis can queue up.
“It helps with a more controlled and safer scene. And that’s paint on a curb and a couple of signs, but it was something that nightlife-business owners had asked the city to look into, so we knew it was something they wanted. So far, their feedback has been positive,” he said.
The third portion of the transportation alternative was introduced earlier this year and allows people to prepay their on-street parking until 10 a. m. the following morning.
Pickus said that all street-parking pay stations now offer the option to pay for an extra two hours of parking the following morning so that patrons can take other modes of transportation without fear of a parking ticket.
“A lot of people may have felt pressure to drive home when they’ve had a few too many drinks because they didn’t want to get a parking ticket in the morning, since parking enforcement starts at 8 a. m.,” he said. “Now, you don’t have to worry about rushing back to get to your car. It makes it easier to leave it there and be safe.”
Response on these seven ordinances of the Seattle Nightlife Initiative has been positive from both the community and the business sectors of nightlife districts. Tim Gaydos, president of the Belltown Business Association, agreed with Campbell that efforts to handle these aspects of the initiative have been productive.
“Earlier this year, we worked really closely with the city to get a couple really problem bars under control,” Gaydos said. “You get a few problem bars, and it causes some serious havoc — people that don’t adhere to laws or over-serve. It got crazy. But working with the CCT officers and things like that, we were able to see some action happen, and it was very helpful.”
Pickus said that although Belltown has gotten a lot of press surrounding the Nightlife Initiative and does have two late-night taxi stands in its area, the initiative is in no way specifically targeted at the district.
“This is a citywide initiative that is absolutely not more focused on Belltown. It’s really focused on where our city’s nightlife districts are,” Pickus said. “It wouldn’t make sense just to single out one of those districts because we are trying to support nightlife citywide. That’s why we are not only looking at Belltown, but also Ballard, Pioneer Square, Capitol Hill, the [Pike Place] Market and Belltown itself.”
Pickus added that each district is different, and that the city is looking to support the best practices in all areas that have a nightlife core. He also said that two taxi stands were placed near Belltown, but he argued that one is actually closer to downtown.
Pickus also pointed out that there are numerous nightlife businesses on First Avenue, stretching from Belltown to downtown, and that the heavy population of bars and clubs in that area accounted for the extra taxi stand.
“There are a lot of nightlife establishments down there, and there a lot of people who, especially around 2 o’clock, are pushed out all at once, creating a public-safety risk. So that is why there are two there, but there is also one in Fremont, one in Capitol Hill and one in Pioneer Square.”
Pickus said that the initiative has worked to close several problem establishments located throughout the city, not just ones in Belltown: “If you recall, Angie’s in Columbia City was ultimately shut down for a variety of reasons. V-Bar in Belltown is another one.”
The major focus that McGinn has placed on the Seattle Nightlife Initiative comes from the progressing negative relationship that nightlife establishments and the city had been developing before the McGinn was voted into office in November 2009.
Pickus said that the extra attention in no way stems from specific incidences, but that it is meant to nurture a stronger relationship between the Mayor’s Office and the nightlife businesses that contribute so much to the Seattle landscape.
“What we heard during the campaign is that a lot of people in the nightlife business — whether it be a club or a bar or a venue — felt like the relationship between the city and their business sector had become
¦ One of the new taxi stands downtown, on the east side of First Avenue, between Pike and Pine streets.
“There is still no confirmed schedule or time frame yet. It’s very much something they are still working on,” he said. “Some recent reports have given the impression that it is a done deal, and while we are very much looking at it and committed to trying it, what it looks like and how it will work is something we are going to want to hear from the public on.”
Gaydos said that overall, businesses in his area are favorable to extending liquor-service hours, though he acknowledged that extending hours may not be the only solution: “One of the problems with Belltown is that it drops everyone out into the streets at 2 a. m., which causes havoc. I think a majority of people are in favor, but there are questions. Is that the best solution to the problem?”
Pickus said that the 2 a. m. witching hour has become a major strain on city resources and that extending service hours at certain places may reduce some of that burden.
Pickus explained that this 2 a. m. last call causes two public-safety risks: “First off, it creates a huge strain on police resources right at a time when the shift changes happen in the police department — you have a huge public-safety concern that’s very antagonistic, that there wasn’t good communication, that they were being treated as the bad guy, and that really led to a breakdown in the relationship between that sector and the city,” he explained.
“In listening to that, and looking at how other cities supported their nightlife businesses — which in Seattle brings in millions of dollars for the city and is an important part of its diversity — it made sense to have an open line of communication to share the respective needs. The initiative is a change in approach, more than anything else.”
The Seattle Nightlife Initiative has one final component: a proposal to extend liquor-service hours at certain nightlife establishments — a change that the city believes will help reduce public-safety hazards that occur when last call hits and thousand of people flood the streets.
Pickus said that efforts on this proposal have been stalled due to the passing of Initiative 1183: The state liquor board has been swamped with making the change to close its stores and has postponed the matter indefinitely. With the added efforts to quash I-1183 by state employees, Pickus said he is unsure as to when their efforts will begin again.
NIGHTLIFE, Page 7