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Ybor fliers a nuisance, council says

The handouts are an irritant and cause cleanup problems, the council says. The ordinance insults First Amendment rights, some businesses say.

By WAYNE WASHINGTON

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 29, 2000


TAMPA -- Men and women, some scantily clad, walk up and down Seventh Avenue, handing out fliers advertising cheap beer and low cover charges. It's a staple of the Ybor City party scene.

Well, it used to be a staple of the party scene.

The Tampa City Council passed an ordinance Thursday prohibiting businesses in the booming entertainment district from passing out fliers in areas beyond their property. City officials say people are being pestered by those who pass out the fliers, which contribute to the post-party mess the area is left with.

Handing out the fliers along Seventh and Eighth avenues and in the parking garage along Sixth Avenue between 16th and 15th streets will result in an initial warning followed by a fine for business owners for a second offense.

"It's a real public nuisance that we get complaints about continually," said Bill Doherty, manager of the city's Neighborhood Improvement Division.

Council members passed the ordinance unanimously, with some business owners showing up to speak in favor of it.

But not everybody likes the idea. Some complained that the policy has less to do with eliminating litter and a whole lot to do with making Centro Ybor's owners happy.

The huge project is seen by city leaders as the linchpin of redevelopment in the area.

"Whatever they want, they get," said David Taylor, who owns Platforms and Kaos, two of the area's popular nightclubs. "It's kind of ridiculous. Every week, there's a new law, a new something we can't do."

Taylor said his and other businesses in the area will be hurt by the ban.

"It curtails our First Amendment rights," Taylor said. "If we want to hand out fliers, why can't we?"

City officials said the discarded fliers clog stormwater drains and cover the streets with litter. The mess means extra work for city clean-up crews, especially when it rains. Wet fliers stick to the street, forcing crew members to remove them by hand.

"The sweepers won't get them," said Rick Carter, superintendent of the city's stormwater operations unit.

Carter said the fliers have also covered grates in the 16th Street area near Palm and Sixth avenues, leading to flooding problems.

Beyond the mess and flooding, city officials said the new flier ban shows that they are serious about making Ybor City more than a weekend party spot.

"We're trying to make Ybor City a tourist destination to the world," City Council Chairman Charlie Miranda said. "If you're going to be panhandled every 30 feet, you're going to ask: What am I doing here?"

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