A bill introduced to City Council in April to repeal the entertainment zone legislation allowing certain city ordinances to be waived in certain portions of Downtown during specified times was challenged Tuesday by advocates for the Eastside neighborhood near the Sports Complex.
Council members John Crescimbeni and Matt Schellenberg sponsored a bill that would repeal portions of Special Events and Entertainment District code, and eliminate an exemption to the city's noise control regulations governing outdoor musical entertainment.
Crescimbeni said he co-sponsored the bill to "revisit the concept of what is our Entertainment District" after discussions with concert promoters who are attempting to reach an agreement with the city over the use and noise regulations at Metropolitan Park.
A Downtown entertainment zone was designated in 2004, in preparation for the 2005 Super Bowl. Within the zone, some city regulations were temporarily waived during the week of Super Bowl-related activities.
The waivers included non-enforcement of the noise ordinance, the open container alcoholic beverage regulations and the zoning distance limitation on the location of businesses selling alcoholic beverages from churches and schools.
After the game, the Super Bowl entertainment zone was repealed and then legislation was introduced to re-adopt and expand the portion of the entertainment zone that covered A. Philip Randolph Boulevard and several blocks of the Eastside neighborhood.
The zone and its three code waivers are effective for a set of specific events and includes festivities such as the annual Florida-Georgia and Gator Bowl football games, all events at Veterans Memorial Arena, the Baseball Grounds, EverBank Field and the Jacksonville Fairgrounds and Expo Center, and certain events at Metropolitan Park.
Legislation is being considered to clarify the noise regulations that apply to events at Metropolitan Park, which Crescimbeni said led to the proposed repeal of the waivers.
"I have a problem with clamping down on noise at Metropolitan Park and allowing noise along A. Philip Randolph," said Crescimbeni.
Ken Covington, a case manager at Clara White Mission Inc. and an Eastside neighborhood advocate, said business owners along A. Philip Randolph Boulevard want the entertainment zone to remain in effect to take advantage of business opportunities created by sports and entertainment events.
"We want the area to be similar to Five Points or Avondale. It could be a commercial corridor in the African-American community," he said.
Council member Johnny Gaffney said events cause foot traffic to "trickle" into the Eastside area and the business owners "want inclusion, not exclusion."
Nikki Brunson, owner of Celeb's Corner Kitchen at 736 A. Philip Randolph Blvd, said she operates a full-service restaurant with a full liquor license. She said from the front door of the restaurant, she can see EverBank Field, the Fairgrounds, the Baseball Grounds and Arena.
"We want the neighborhood included in planning for events. I want my customers to be able to purchase alcohol from me and walk with it 10 minutes to the Sports Complex," said Brunson.
Council member Lori Boyer supported sustaining the waivers along A. Philip Randolph Boulevard and suggested that the area between Bay Street and First Street in Springfield could be identified by its own name, such as the "Eastside entertainment zone."
"Having a name would increase consumer confidence," said Brunson.
"My big hang-up is noise. We can change the name to whatever you want," said Crescimbeni. "This bill isn't going anywhere until you decide on a name."