To the editor:
I have been reading with great interest the debate over a proposed "entertainment district" for the Beach. During the 10 years I was at the helm of the Island Sand Paper, before I sold it to the current owners, I wrote several editorials about the desirability of expanding the parameters of our downtown district to accomodate more music and allow greater flexibility in alcohol consumption, most notably, the right to carry open containers in the designated areas. (I never included the Beach itself in this description, it should remain family oriented and litter free).
This is certainly not a new idea and one only has to look to New Orleans for a longevity view of what happens to an area when entertainment districts are created with wide latitude afforded those who want to visit them and enjoy themselves. Bourbon Street, indeed the entire French Quarter (and now nearby Frenchman Streets) are meccas for entertainment and as such attrach a substantial amount of tourism because of that latitude.
No tourist (or local, for that matter) wants to get into trouble with the law or feel censored when all they seek is fun. Laws are on the books to address those who otherwise get out of hand, such as disorderly conduct and disturbing the public peace.
The real issue on Fort Myers Beach is the proximity of the establishments to residential areas what is percieved as increased noise levels if more laxity is provided. Once again, look to NOLA. There are many residences even right above music emporiums but walking on many of the streets is not a din as most of the music is inside. It is my opinion this is the way to go. Allow no new hours for outdoor music -keep it confined to reasonable times in the day and early night but do stop arresting people for "open containers" while walking with their drinks between licensed establishments in the designated areas. And, do encourage music and other performing arts during the day and not in such a tighly regulated manner as to discourage creativity and artistic license. You'll probably find more dollars flowing into our Island and a greater draw for the tourist destination it has always been.
We are competing for those dollars. Take a look at Huntsville, Alabama, home to NASA. They just recently created just such a zone and things are going well. Push the Boogie Man under the table and embrace changes that can and will enrich our community. Too many are reactionary, preferring to rest on their retirement plans and guaranteed incomes at the expense of art and income flows for those who want to live and work here in combination. FMB has always been a tourist destination and those who bought here knew it then and they certainly know it now.
BTW, thanks for those Islanders who showed up at the Troubadour to see Capt. Carl's Jazz and Blues Revue last week. The show went well and I believe there is a write up about it online at www.jazzcolumbus.com. We are looking forward to playing on the Beach in January and being part of what we hope will be an expanding local performing arts scene.
Fort Myers Beach