Ocoee could lift 20-year ban on standalone bars

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OCOEE, Fla. - Ocoee officials are looking at allowing bars and cocktail lounges to open up in to certain sections of the city, like the area along State Road 50 between State Road 408 and State Road 429.

Twelve squares miles of Ocoee sits along S.R. 50 and is home a number of businesses, including Health Central, the West Oaks Mall and the new a lakefront events center, but there are no bars or cocktail lounges without a restaurant attached.

Ocoee's ban on standalone bars was implemented more than 20 years ago when strip club owners wanted to open more topless bars.

"The law was passed at that time where you had to have food where you had a liquor bar," said Ocoee Mayor Scott Vandergrift.

City officials said lifting the ban is part of an effort to get vacant properties built up with wine bars, restaurants and retail. They said there won't be topless bars. 

"In discussions with developers and business people, they saw there was a lack of an ability to put in wine bars and martini bars," said Michael Rumer, with Ocoee Planning Department.

The city has a number of empty buildings and parcels of land on S.R. 50 that could use tenants. 

But bars won't be allowed just anywhere in the city, only in certain areas zoned for specific commercial development. And they have to be 1,000 feet away from schools and churches.

Even with the restrictions some residents told Channel 9's Racquel Asa they aren't in favor of lifting the ban.   

"You go through flack to get anything done in Ocoee in the building realm and now it's OK to put the liquor crowd in? No, it's not," said resident Bonnie Stinson.

City officials said city code would allow them to address issues of loitering and noise if properties become problems.

Ocoee's city code prevents the sale of alcohol after 2 a.m.