Internet cafés offer Wi-Fi access and sell Internet phone cards for use on slot machines and online gambling websites. City staff suggests the cafés promote negative activity in the city.
It’s all-in for the four businesses going through the occupancy permit process in hopes of opening Internet cafés in Palm Coast.
But in two weeks, the Palm Coast City Council will vote whether to approve a moratorium, which would put a six-month stranglehold on the under-the-radar gambling establishments. The City Council approved the interim resolution via a 3-2 vote. For now, the seven open cafés will continue as usual, and the four pending will also open in the near future. If the moratorium passes, no new Internet cafés be able to open in the city for six months while staff determines if they should be banned for good.
City Attorney Bill Reischmann and staff recommended the City Council approve the resolution to let the four pending businesses open in order to avoid legal issues from the owners who might have already invested money in opening the businesses.
According to Reischmann, Seminole County implemented a moratorium on Internet cafés, but then was sued. A federal court upheld the county’s decision. Much of the reason Seminole County wanted a moratorium, Reischmann said, was because of crime congregating around the cafés.
City Council member Frank Meeker opposed the resolution.He said that if Internet cafes attract crime and adversely affect the community, he could not support allowing the four pending cafés to open, either.
“I just have a hard time going along with that,” Meeker said May 17.
Charles Ericksen Jr., a Palm Coast resident who also intends to run for mayor in this year’s City Council election, said he stopped by a few of the Internet cafés last week. He said he noticed that the majority of the people inside the café were likely over the age of 60.
“I suggest keeping an open mind and to see what they are, and maybe even get a look-see for yourself,” he told the City Council.
City Council member Bill Lewis also voted against the resolution because he did not want the pending four cafés to open.
“If we don’t do something serious and something definite, they’re going to keep coming,” Lewis said.