The Seattle City Council recently reached agreement regarding the hot-button issue of nightlife regulations, passing an amended package that could have taken effect in 2008, but it was too little too late for the city’s mayor.
Mayor Greg Nickels vetoed the package of regulations September 27th, claiming the legislation, which was two years in the making, "failed to take meaningful action on nightclub licensing and promoting public safety."
Nickels charged that creating a licensing program had been the council’s top priority.
The licensing requirement was aimed at reducing litter, noise, violence and drug use in and around venues. Nightclub operators were fiercely opposed to an original proposal that would have forced them to obtain licenses that could then be revoked for a single offending incident.
But as amended, the council’s package held no guarantee that the club licensing requirements would even take effect in 2008, as the regulations required another vote next year. Thus, the veto will have little if any effect on nightclub operators in the city, as the proposed measures had yet to take place.
And while the council’s measure included the formation of a nightlife commission to review law enforcement involving nearly 100 night spots and a requirement that each club have a safety plan, Nickels called the commission "unnecessary."
"I appointed such a commission in 2006," he wrote in a letter to the council. "That commission, which included nightclub owners and neighborhood residents, met for nearly a year and recommended steps the city should take to protect public safety, improve the relations between club owners and neighbors, and enhance the nightlife industry in Seattle."
The council’s Neighborhood and Economic Development Committee has reportedly held more than a dozen public meetings, listened to resident and expert testimony and reviewed the nightlife ordinances of other cities, which Nickels claims should have provided council members with more than enough information to establish a licensing program.
"At the end of the day, a decision must be made as to whether licenses should be required of nightclubs in our city," Nickels said. "It is time for us to put an end to this debate, move beyond process and focus our work on ensuring a vibrant and safe nightlife industry in Seattle."
Councilmember Sally Clark, who sponsored the nightlife measure, said the amended version of the package was a "poison pill."
"I’m not too surprised that he vetoed it," she told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "The way it came out of council was problematic."
The council could apparently attempt an override of the veto, if six of nine members vote in favor of the package.
However, the council is more likely to move forth with smaller measures, the Post-Intelligencer reported, including strengthening noise and nuisance ordinances, and increased city staffing and safety requirements. Clark said in a statement that she would continue to push for the formation of a Nightlife Committee.