“Look at it with an open mind . . . “

South Cape bars can now apply to stay open until 4 a.m. on weekends

Published in Cape Coral Daily Breeze April 3, 2015 issue

With a new ordinance approved, businesses and bars in the South Cape are weighing the pros and cons of what a two-hour weekend extension can have on their business.

Monday night the Cape Coral City Council approved an ordinance that will give businesses and bars the option to apply for a special permit to participate in a pilot program extending hours from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. In addition to applying for the permit, business must pay to have an off-duty Cape police officer on premise for safety; install surveillance systems to monitor all activity; comply with the state Responsibility Vendor Act; have one dedicated security staff person per 150 patrons and 15 minutes before closing will be last call.

City spokesperson Connie Barron said permitting staff is finalizing the process and should have forms and fact sheets ready by the end of next week for the new ordinance.

BackStreets Sports Bar Marketing Director David Delli Paoli said they will be participating because they believe in the concept.

“We believe that this is one thing that can add to an already great entertainment district,” he said. “We are going to be coming out of pocket to be paying for the police because we believe in this so much.”

Although they intend to apply for the permit, Delli Paoli said they probably will not open the extra two hours for another couple of weeks because they want to make sure they have everything in order first.

Throughout any point of the day BackStreets has a diverse age group that ranges from 21 to 75. Currently, with the 2 a.m. closing time, Delli Paoli said they have a very strong showing of people in their 40s and 50s.

He said with the ordinance going into effect on April 3, he believes it will be a good chance to try it during off season when they can handle an extra two hours with local traffic before having to beef things up later in the year.

“People look at it and focus just on those two hours,” Delli Paoli said. “What they don’t focus on is the options that it brings. We have a very, very strong European presence and they all look at you funny when you say you close at 2 a.m.”

He said visitors from larger northern municipalities are also used to later bar hours.

The extended hours, Delli Paoli said will draw people into the area.

“Once they are here maybe they can see everything else. Maybe book a vacation,” he said.

With more tourism, Delli Paoli said more businesses and jobs will come to the area, which means more tax income for the city that then equates to fewer taxes for homeowners. That trickledown effect, he said, will take some time to kick in.

Every municipality that they have talked to with bar hours to 4 a.m. said “if you build it, they will come,” he added.

Although he believes the extended bar hours will be good for the economy, he also understands the communities safety concerns.

“We were voted as the second safest city in Florida,” Delli Paoli said. “We do have one of the greatest police forces around. They can handle it, especially if we are paying to have more police officers out there.”

He said they want to make sure their customers always feel safe.

Another concern the community has expressed are the possible increase of DUIs.

“What this law will do is it will bring more people here,” Delli Paoli said. “Add more variables to a situation; you are going to increase the chances. It’s a numbers game. People are trying to say from 2 to 4 more . . . more people creates more DUIs. If that is the case should we stop tourism all together? It’s not the hours being from 2 to 4 that are going to create more DUIs.”

He went on to say that there are many bars that offer happy hour specials.

“How many of those people get in their cars and drive home during rush hour,” Delli Paoli said, adding there are no DUI checkpoints at that time of the day to collect data.

“I know there is a lot of opinions and emotions involved,” he said. “A lot of people have been affected by drunk drivers. I have lost family members and dear friends to drunk drivers. (You have to) remove emotions and take a look at the facts and the economic boost that the ordinance brings to this place. Look at it with an open mind and give it a chance to work.”

There are also businesses and bars in Cape Coral that have expressed no desire to apply for the permit.

The Dek Bar Manager Billy McKee said applying for the special permit is not financially reasonable for them to do. He said for an extra two hours, they would have to pay bands more money, as well as pay an off duty police officer for those two nights.

“We are not going to make a profit off an extra two hours for all the money going out,” he said.

In addition to the extra money going into the extended time, he said it would be hard on their employees as well. McKee said if they closed the doors at 4 a.m., his employees would not be leaving until 6 a.m. or 7 a.m.

“That is an issue for my boss,” he said.

Cape Coral Councilmember Richard Leon, who spearheaded the effort, said he hopes the pilot program will show the community the level of safety that can be maintained while extending the bar hours.

He said people will come to the city to go out to dinner, watch a movie before going out and enjoying a few drinks.

“I can go out and have a good time at these events and have a good time at night,” Leon said, adding that the trial period is an experiment to see if those types of situations unfold.

Leon said he hopes to also extend relationships into Bonita Springs and the Florida Gulf Coast University communities to provide some type of trolley service to bring people into Cape Coral.

Throughout the ordinance’s trial period, Leon said he wants to make sure that they are looking at the economic value of extending the hours. He said there are many things in the following year that the City of Cape Coral needs to keep an eye on to provide research data for 2016.

He said with Cape Coral being the only location between Tampa and Miami to have the extended bar hours, the sales will increase not only for the local bars, but for restaurants and hotels.

“It’s another tool to sell Cape Coral,” Leon said.

He said since Cape Coral extended the bar hours it makes the city a unique and rare location on the west coast of Florida, which provides an opportunity for property values to increase.

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“Oldest theater group in Lee County”

Catching a Show at Cultural Park Theatre

Published in Community Lifestyles Cape Coral October/November 2014 issue

The oldest theater group in Lee County is celebrating 52 years of providing entertainment to Southwest Florida residents and visitors.

coverExecutive Director Michael Moran said the Cultural Park Theatre began with a group of 10 thespians in the early 1960s who enjoyed putting on plays and performances, performing for folks at the Yacht Club.

The shows became very popular once the entertaining began, which led the group to changing their troupe name to the Cape Coral Community Players.

“They performed anywhere and everywhere they could find space,” Moran said.

The Cape Coral Community Players saved up their earnings, and together, built the Cultural Park Theater. The little house, at 528 Cultural Park Blvd., has remained the same over the decades it’s been in use, with the exception of upgrades to the decor and sound system.

The original group was scheduled to have their first stage production in November 1963.

“They had to cancel the first show they ever did because it happened on the same day President Kennedy was assassinated,” Moran said. “They canceled their first performance in honor of the president.”

He said the troupe decided it was far more tasteful to be closed that day.

“From there they have just grown tremendously over the years,” Moran said. “January through May you have to call early to get a seat in this place. The summertime gives us a little more play room.”

When the Cultural Park Theatre first began holding performances, there were one or two a year. Now the theater hosts approximately 26 of them a year.

The theater has numerous seasons throughout the calendar: Broadway shows September through May; concert series September through May, summer concert series and summer camps.

The concert series, now in its fourth year, is the newest of the programs offered for residents.

“It has grown substantially,” Moran said. “When we started four years ago, we had to chase after artists and now the phone rings by people who want to be a part of the season.”

The music varies, so it is appealing for all patrons. This year the series includes mostly tributes of different styles of music.

Cultural Theatre2This year’s season kicked off with a Patsy Cline tribute by Linda Fazioli. The season will also have David Morin as Elvis Presley Friday, Oct. 31, Saturday, Nov. 1, and Sunday, Nov. 2, performing four shows, both matinees at 3 p.m. and evening shows at 8:30 p.m.

“He is a knock-your-socks-off performer,” Moran said. “He covers the Elvis venue, from young Elvis to the end.”

Other performances include a Charlie Vee tribute to Barry Manilow in February; Simply Streisand Carla Del Villaggio as Barbara Streisand in March; Neil Zirconia as Neil Diamond in April and Cultural Park Theater’s Reveilli Revue in May.

Tickets for the concert series are $20. The theater seats 184 people.

The Broadway shows will include “You’re Never Too Old” in October; “And Then There Were None” in November; “Fantasticks” and “Christmas Spectacular” in December; “Monty Python’s Spamalot” in January; “Dixie Swim Club” in February; “A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum” in March; “Fools” in April and “Odd Couple” in May.

Moran said the Cultural Park Theater has the most reasonable tickets in the area for their Broadway season. Tickets are $19 for adults; $17 for seniors; $13 for students with ID and $10 for children under 12 years old.

In 1991, the theater began holding children and adult education classes and summer classes. There are three educational programs offered for every age group.

The most popular class is the Broadway Babies program for children ages 5 to 7, which has already begun for the fall session.

“The program is an introduction for young students to come in and start learning the basics of acting, singing and dancing,” Moran said. “They get together to meet for eight weeks, one day a week and put a program together for friends and family at the end of the class.”

The theater also offers Musical Theater Performance Level I and Level II. Music Theater I is geared for children 7 to 10 years old and the Musical Theater II is for 11- to 16-year-olds.

Moran said the more advanced classes work on all aspects of musical theater, such as acting, singing and dancing. The older kids work on character development during the course.

The last of the educational programs is an Adult Acting class. The class does not begin at a certain level, but rather teaches as if students were learning the craft for the first time. The instructors, Moran said, work individually with each of the students in the class.

The summer camp is another favorite among elementary- to high-school-aged children, attracting 45 to 50 students every session. The camps, which run all summer long, are held for two weeks at a time, focusing on developing stage presence, acting, singing and dancing, as well.

At the end of the two week session, the students put on a showcase for their families and friends.

The two-week camp is $240 and is held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For more information about the Cultural Park Theater, any of its upcoming performances, classes or to purchase tickets, contact the box office at 239-772-5862 or go online by visiting CulturalParkTheater.com.