Cost of SJ Nightlife Just Went Up

"We'll do it our way in San Jose."

The cost of late night revelry is official.  It adds up to $800,000.

That is what the San Jose City Council approved to pay for policing the city's downtown entertainment zone.

The businesses themselves can expect to shoulder at financial burden, but bar and  restaurant owners say it is worth it because it will make the neighborhood feel friendlier to  patrons.

Mayor Chuck Reed noted that Oakland, San Francisco and Campbell have grappled with similar problems, and taken different approaches.

"We'll do it our way in San Jose," he said. "We want people to come downtown, we want them to have fun, and be safe, and we want them to  come back."

It's not clear how  much businesses in the downtown entertainment zone would pay, or how these  fees will be levied other than they will be on a sliding-scale.

Ideas include charging a fee per patron.

Currently many of the officers who police the area around bars' 2 a.m. closing time are working overtime, Chief of Police Robert Davis said, because the number of  officers required varies each night. These burgeoning costs are straining the  city's already strapped budget.

Dave Powell, who owns the VooDoo Lounge, San Jose Bar and Grill and Tres Gringos Baja Cantina downtown, said the current policing procedures are  unfriendly to patrons.

"We have a policing model downtown that's good at one thing, and that's getting people out of the downtown," he said. "You might as well put  up a sign saying 'you're not welcome.'"

Powell said he was "thrilled" about the recommendations. He is confident the added fees will help create an environment where more people  feel comfortable eating and drinking in downtown at night.

"We're entrepreneurs," he said. "We're willing to spend money to make money."

Powell also praised a recommendation in the memo to implement a "soft-closing" program. In this scenario, he said, venues must still stop  serving alcohol at 1:30 a.m., but patrons could stay in the bar to finish  their drinks and listen to music at a lower volume, rather than having to be  out the door at 2 a.m. Having a large number of people released on the street  at the same time after consuming alcohol is "a ticking time bomb," he said.

Dan Doherty, who owns the Mission Ale House and Smoke Tiki Lounge in San Jose, praised the city for working with business owners.

"When elected officials trust small businesses, good things will happen," he said.

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