SWFL Extended hours for Cape Coral bars show promise

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SWFL Extended hours for Cape Coral bars show promise

CAPE CORAL, Fla.- Bar owners across south Cape Coral are seeing more customers come through their door this year, and they’re staying longer too.

Cape Coral Police Chief Bart Connelly says his department has been working with bar owners since April to monitor activity in and around their businesses, learning how new extended hours over the weekend could impact their community.

“We have seen great success in the meetings that we have had and discussions and talking about the problems. How do you work together to solve them?” said Connelly.

The pilot program launched in April allows bars in south Cape Coral to stay open until 4 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, with the proper permits.

Cape Coral police tell WINK News both parties meet once a month to discuss problems, and compare incidents, arrests and business growth.

Shelly Lapaglia, owner of Backstreet Sports Bar, says she’s very happy with the progress of the program, and says it’s made a big difference in south Cape Coral.

“This is no longer ‘Cape coma,’ we’re on the map!”

She agrees with city council members who say they believe this move could bring a much larger crowd to downtown Cape Coral, but it comes with a price. Bars are required to pay extra fees for permits, and hire off-duty police officers to assist security guards at these locations.

“I do pay a lot of money. My monthly bill is expensive to the police department, however it’s worth it because we’re seeing an uprise in sales throughout the whole night,” said Lapaglia.

Residents have voiced a concern over safety on the roads during the early morning hours. Police at the meeting Thursday admitted they have seen an increase in intoxicated persons since bars have been open longer, but DUIs are fluctuating.

“They went up from 10 to 19, and we worked to get them down to 15 this month.”

Law enforcement officers also hope this program works well for everyone, and bar owners hope successful results during this trial period will help make this a permanent ordinance in the near future.

“We want to keep learning. It’s new to us as well,” said Connelly. “We think our efforts have been doing very well. Coming together we can all reduce these numbers and it’s going to be a fantastic program.”