‘It’s better than losing a life’: Students debate proposed Ybor curfew following shooting

The Tampa City Council proposed a curfew that would close businesses early or restrict minors from being in the area. ORACLE PHOTO/JUSTIN SEECHARAN

Ybor City’s vibrant lights and streets lined with clubs and bars offer exciting night life for some USF students just 20 minutes from campus. 

The streets once filled with parties and music until the early hours of the morning were tainted earlier this month. Now, city officials question how late is too late for the streets to be open.

Around 3 a.m. on Nov. 1, two people were killed and over a dozen were injured in a shooting near 7th avenue.

Councilmember Gwendolyn Henderson proposed a temporary curfew that would force businesses in the Historic Ybor District to close at 1 a.m in response to the shooting. 

Sophomore environmental science major Shay Burress, 19, said a curfew in Ybor would be a good idea in response to violence in the area. 

“Nothing good happens after one in the morning,” she said.

For Burress, who has been to Ybor a few times, the area does not feel safe. She said constantly being on guard can take the fun out of going out.

“People can’t go out and enjoy that culture because they’re worried about people coming and shooting it up,” she said. “People aren’t able to take in that culture if there’s so many other issues going on.”’

Freshman finance major Kayla Facey, 19, said the curfew is not fair. 

She said she thinks people should be the ones to decide if the risk of going out is worth taking. She said risk takers are more likely to go down to Ybor later, but, if they feel safe, it is their right to go out. 

“I feel like prohibiting people from doing that is restricting one of our freedoms to assemble,” Facey said.

In a statement ahead of the council meeting, Henderson said the curfew would give Ybor time to study violence and potential solutions for the city.

City attorneys at the meeting said the curfew may not be legally possible for all businesses. Many businesses in Ybor have permits that would allow them to remain open and Florida statute requires an emergency situation to close establishments early, according to the article. 

Burress understood some students, like Facey, feel they should be able to decide if they want to go out. However, Burress said the curfew would prevent students from being in danger in the first place.

“Having a curfew at that point makes sure nothing bad happens after that time,” Burress said. 

Mayor Jane Castor voiced her support for the curfew as it aligns with the city’s goals of transitioning to a daytime business-centered economy, according to a Tampa Bay Times article.

However, some students, like Facey, said they do not feel safe in Ybor.

Facey said imposing a curfew will not affect the area’s lively culture too much. She said businesses will maintain their historical ties and express their culture regardless of what time they have to close.

Senior business marketing major Kevin Garcia, 21, said closing establishments at 1 a.m. doesn’t give customers enough time to have fun and enjoy their night out. 

He said people of age should be able to decide if the consequences are worth going out. If people are willing to go out, businesses should be allowed to stay open, he said.

Garcia said he also thinks companies will likely lose money by closing early. Business leaders in a Nov. 2 council meeting shared Garcia’s concerns.

Burress agreed the curfew may cause the companies to lose some money, but it is not worth risking lives. She called businesses’ concern about losing money tone deaf in light of the risk to customers in the area.

“Yeah, they’re losing money,” Burress said. “But, it’s better than losing a life.”

Other proposals have included a curfew for people under 18 around midnight, according to a Nov. 14 town hall meeting. The concern for juvenile safety was heightened after a 14-year-old boy died in the Nov. 1 shooting.

Cellular molecular biology sophomore Yalini Somesan,19, said the juvenile curfew could be a good idea, but she thinks it would be difficult for the city to enforce.

Somesan said she doesn’t think minors should be in Ybor late at night anyway. She said the responsibility should be up to the families to keep them safe.

“Kids are going to be kids and they’re going to do whatever they want,” Somesan said. 

She said she thinks juveniles would find a way around the law, making it ineffective.

Burress said she thinks a curfew would ultimately protect all people in Ybor, despite concerns from the community.

“It’s still for the greater good,” she said. “You can still go out before then and have fun.”