Jazziz angling for late nights, a few election notes and more

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Late nights?

What can you do in two hours when it comes to entertainment? You can’t binge watch a TV show. You can’t watch an entire National Football League game. Not even close. You probably can’t watch all of a feature-length movie. Even the bad ones can top two hours.

In Boca Raton, though, two hours apparently could be enough to create an entertainment district.

That is the idea behind a proposed ordinance that the Boca Raton City Council discussed Monday in a workshop—no voting—meeting. At the moment, however, the “district” basically means the south end of Mizner Park and consists of the night club/restaurant Jazziz.

If the council approves it, a test program would allow Jazziz to stay open until 4 a.m., past the current 2 a.m, on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. More important, Jazziz would be able to serve alcohol on those days/early mornings until 4 a.m., two hours beyond the city’s current deadline.

The program would last for 60 days. Jazziz would have to hire two off-duty Boca Raton police officers to work outside. If more than 300 people were inside, Jazziz would have to hire another two cops. Jazziz could not serve alcohol outside. If there were three “verified police incidents” between 2 .m. and 4 a.m. during the 60 days – the shirtsleeve English definition meaning drunks causing trouble—the program would end.

Constance Scott, the council member who brought up this idea and remains its biggest supporter, called it an “ideal location” for such an experiment and touted Jazziz’ deserved reputation as a regional, even national draw. True enough. Jazziz draws impressive headliners—Oleta Adams, the Rippingtons and John Oates perform in the next couple of weeks—and complements Mizner Park in a way that nothing in that key space ever has.

Still, there is a lot involved with those two extra hours. Councilman Michael Mullaugh wondered what happens if, after 60 days, Jazziz is benefiting, the public is happy and there have been no police calls. What then? Does the city allow the extended hours permanently for Jazziz? Do the conditions remain? And what about other downtown clubs and restaurants that also want to stay open that late? “How do we say no?” Mullaugh asked rhetorically.

Since the council sentiment was to ensure that the extra hours don’t bother neighbors who prefer to sleep at that time, setting minimum distance requirements from residences could eliminate a lot of other pleaders. Mayor Susan Haynie recalled that the city previously considered the extra hours for another business, but held off because of proximity to neighbors. Andrew McKinney, who oversees Mizner Park for General Growth Properties, said Monday that companies managing Mizner Park’s apartments support the after-hours experiment.

After the discussion, the council’s consensus was for the staff to work more on the proposed ordinance, and then bring it back for a public hearing. Councilman Robert Weinroth anticipates a “very interesting debate.”

One also hopes that the council can succeed. Boca Raton is lucky to have Jazziz, and, as the council members noted, the clientele is different from people hanging out that late at bars. Assistant Police Chief Joshua Mindick said he “couldn’t remember the last time” the department had to answer a call from Jazziz. But don’t be surprised if debate over these two hours lasts two hours or more.

Gray & McCarthy update

The trial on ethics charges of former Delray Beach city commissioners Angeleta Gray and Alberta McCarthy will begin on Jan. 9. Each faces two misdemeanor charges from Gray’s vote last November on a city contract that allegedly would have benefitted McCarthy without disclosing that McCarthy had repaid part of a business loan for Gray.

According to a spokesman for the state attorney’s office, there has been no talk of a plea agreement. Gray lost her bid for reelection last March to Jordana Jarjura. Interestingly, even though Gray is out of office and facing charges, she continues to serve on the Health Care District of Palm Beach County’s board, appointed by County Commissions Steven Abrams. She was allowed to stay because she is fighting the charges.

Election notes

Voters in this area actually have both a competitive Florida House and Florida Senate race. There are more back stories, though, with the Senate contest.

It’s a rematch of 2012 between incumbent Democrat Maria Sachs and former incumbent Ellen Bogdanoff. The Legislature redrew the district for the 2012 race, making it slightly more favorable for a Democrat. Sachs gave up a Palm Beach County seat to run in the new District 34, which includes southeast Palm Beach County and northeast Broward along the coast to Fort Lauderdale. Sachs lost in Broward but more than made up for it in Palm Beach, which has about two-thirds of all voters in the district.

If Bogdanoff wins, the Republicans probably would have enough votes in the Senate to override a Charlie Crist veto if he became governor. The GOP would need 81 seats in the 120-member House to have override majorities in both chambers.

One of the most interested people in the outcome is another state senator, Jack Latvala, from Pinellas County. The Senate president for 2017-18 will be either Latvala or Joe Negron, who represents northern Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast. If Bogdanoff wins, she would be a vote for Latvala in what shapes up as a close leadership contest —so close that Democrats might actually matter.

To that end, Latvala, his family and his political action committee have given Bogdanoff $5,000, and I’m told that Latvala has been “all over” the district helping Bogdanoff. According to the latest campaign finance reports, though, Negron has not crossed party lines to spend any money from his own political action committee on Sachs.

Bogdanoff has raised more money, $610,000 to $454,000, but Bogdanoff’s total includes a $50,000 loan she made to her campaign. Who becomes Senate president can be a big deal, depending on the person’s agenda. Few colleagues challenge a president’s priorities, knowing that doing so could jeopardize their own.

President Obama carried Florida Senate District 34 in 2012, but he’s unpopular, and Sachs also benefited from high turnout—70 percent in Palm Beach and 67 percent in Broward. Four years ago, in the last off-presidential-year election, turnout statewide was just 49 percent. Sachs will need the South Florida turnout boost that Democrats hope will get Charlie Crist past Rick Scott.

No show speaks up

Last week, I wrote that Delray Beach commissioners Adam Frankel and Al Jacquet had missed the meeting at which the commission cut the list of city manager finalists to five. I wrote that I had asked Frankel and Jacquet why the missed the meeting, but had not heard back.

In fact, Frankel did respond by email, but after the deadline for turning in my Thursday post. He said the reason was a trip he had planned three months in advance. Let the record show that he cited a reason for his absence. I still haven’t heard from Jacquet.

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You can email Randy Schultz at randy@bocamag.com

For more City Watch blogs, click here.About the Author

Randy Schultz was born in Hartford, Conn., and graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1974. He has lived in South Florida since then, and in Boca Raton since 1985. Schultz spent nearly 40 years in daily journalism at the Miami Herald and Palm Beach Post, most recently as editorial page editor at the Post. His wife, Shelley, is director of The Learning Network at Pine Crest School. His son, an attorney, and daughter-in-law and three grandchildren also live in Boca Raton. His daughter is a veterinarian who lives in Baltimore.

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Randy Schultz, a native of Hartford, Connecticut, has been a South Florida journalist since 1974. He worked for The Miami Herald until 1976 and for The Palm Beach Post from 1976 until 2014, where he served as managing editor and editorial page editor. Since 2014, he has written a politics blog, commentaries and other articles for Boca magazine. His writing has earned first-place awards from the Florida Magazine Association and the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors. Randy has lived in Boca Raton with his wife, Shelley Huff-Schultz, since 1985. His son, daughter-in-law and their three children also live in Boca Raton.