DELRAY BEACH, Fla. — Bars and restaurants in Delray Beach owe the city tens of thousands in fines due to overcrowding.
Since December, Delray Beach Fire Rescue inspectors have been checking nightlife spots on busy Atlantic Ave. on Friday and Saturday nights to see if they're over capacity.
The issues boil down to safety, according to Fire Rescue officials.
Acting City Manager Neil de Jesus told WPTV earlier this year that when restaurants are too crowded, the people inside are not safe.
"There is no way for everybody who is in there to get out in case of an emergency without getting injured or killed," said de Jesus.
According to the latest Fire Rescue documents, the following Delray Beach establishments have been fined for overcrowding, or Occupancy Load Monitoring, over the last couple months:
- 6/3 - $6,106
- 5/1 - $7,220
- 7/5 - $2,069 (Due 8/4)
- 6/3 - $7,315
- 5/1 - $5,074
- 7/5 - $7,193 (Due 8/4)
- 6/3 - $7,118 (Not Paid)
- 5/1 - $5,903 (Not Paid)
- 7/5 - $3,717 (Due 8/4)
- 6/3 - $6,944
- 5/1 - $5,864
- 6/3 - $7,296
- 5/1 - $6,357
- 6/3 - $6,789 (Not Paid)
- 5/1 - $6,047
Buddah Sky Bar
- 7/5 - $9,384 (Due 8/4)
- 6/3 - $10,203 (Not Paid)
- 5/1 - $7,842 (Not Paid)
At this point, Buddah Sky Bar and The Office are the only establishments that still have firefighters stationed outside on Friday and Saturday nights to check occupancy.
The General Manager of Buddah Sky Bar previously told WPTV that the safety initiative has been hurting his business.
"[Business was] probably down about 30 percent in the month of April with the presence [of firefighters]," Victor Korobka said. "You hear [people walking by] say, is there a bomb scare? Is there a fire?"
City Commissioner Adam Frankel said he feels most of the restaurants have complied with the city’s request to follow the occupancy ordinance.
"It seems to me Acting City Manager Neil de Jesus and his force did a swift job on cleaning things up," said Frankel.
"It was a very large reaction to the problem, and now that we have scaled back the problem, we are trying to figure out the outlying causes and move forward," said Christian Prakas, a broker for businesses in Delray Beach.
Prakas said the conversation needs to move forward now.
"In my eyes, we need to review the current occupancy ratings and see if those are the right occupancy for those times," Prakas said.
Another option is creating a hybrid permit for restaurants that want to convert into bars at night.
Frankel said he feels it's time to start having conversations and crafting solutions to make the city and the business owners happy.