After weeks of debating the merits of her license light — the scaled-back version of the nightlife license proposed by Mayor Greg Nickels, but still widely unpopular with bar and nightclub owners — Council member Sally Clark has jettisoned the idea. She said during a committee hearing this morning that she simply doesn’t have the support of her colleagues.
“We don’t have the votes,” she said. “At this point I don’t count five votes in favor of the license.”
Instead, Clark today pitched an idea to require bars and nightclubs to develop a “safety plan” acceptable to the city after there have been two or more assaults inside a club in a six-month period or after any incident involving a deadly weapon. The safety plan is in addition to the nightlife package Clark rolled out in May that included: amendments to the noise ordinance and nuisance code, increased staffing for enforcement, and the creation of a nightlife advisory board.
Emotions around the issue flared up again this week after yet another Belltown shooting. And the club where it occurred, Tabella, isn’t even the worst. According to a memo from SPD to Clark’s office, places like Venom and the Mantra Lounge have had more trouble. (Mantra has had four shooting incidents this year alone.)
Clark has done an enormous amount of research on this issue, touring problem neighborhoods herself and holding dozens of hours of hearings to solicit input from both club owners and neighborhood residents. But she was also getting an enormous amount of pressure from the mayor to keep the license provision intact. Many inside and outside of City Hall had hoped that Clark would make nightlife her signature effort, that she’d stand up to Nickels and chart her own course.
When she didn’t, Clark found herself in that awkward position between a demanding mayor and a council that's been increasingly unwilling to acquiesce. The nightlife plan isn’t set in stone yet. There will be at least one more hearing this month and the council vote won’t likely occur until early August. And it looks like Clark will come out of this with a rational, workable package. But she’s lost her chance to put her stamp on it.