10 p.m. update: People came out in force to decry the proposal. It looks like it’s not going anywhere. I’m delighted that someone discussed the impact shutting down Ybor would have on the LGBTQ community.
Today, the Tampa City Council will discuss a proposal to shut down bars in Ybor City at 1 a.m. There’s another proposal for a youth curfew. Both of these proposals are a response to a mass shooting in Ybor over the weekend in which two people died and at least 16 were injured.
These proposals are bullshit. They’re attempting to fix something that isn’t broken while ignoring the real problem. We shouldn’t stand for it. Think of it this way: If you went to your doctor with a high fever and a sore throat, you’d be shocked if the treatment were to put a cast on a healthy arm.
And let’s not overlook another issue: For some, bars are the only place they feel safe to be themselves. If you want to pass judgment on that, so be it. I’m a cantankerous old man now, but I remember that in my 20s, gay bars were some of the only places where I felt welcome and validated.
Here’s the letter I sent last night to the City Council. I’m not sure if they’ll listen to or care about what I have to say, but I want to go on record.
To steal a phrase from Saeed Jones, the proposal to shut down Ybor City at 1 a.m. is “… a testament perhaps to the unique talent Americans have for talking all the way around exactly what needs to be said.”
Bars being open late isn’t the problem, and everyone knows it. This proposal doesn’t mitigate the risk of another shooting — gun violence doesn’t care what time it is. This proposal would deprive Tampeňos and visitors of a place to gather and celebrate when everywhere else is closed — and hurt a lot of local business owners and employees.
I’m sure plenty of people believe that folks out past 1 a.m. in Ybor are drunken partygoers who should be in bed. And they might be right. But there’s another issue to consider: For some people — especially those in marginalized communities — areas like Ybor are the only places they can be themselves and be accepted for who they are.
I worry the most for my siblings in the LGBTQ community. They are being erased from school curricula and demonized by state leaders. Must the city of Tampa compound the harm being done by kicking them out of some of the only places they feel welcome?
Closing down Ybor at 1 a.m. isn’t the solution to what happened last weekend. It only distracts us from what really needs to be discussed, and deters us from what really needs to be done. The only thing that should be shut down quickly is this proposal.