After a shooting in downtown Orlando over the weekend that injured seven, changes are coming to curb the violence, something local business owners say is a good thing.
What you need to know
- After last weekend’s shooting, local police are adding checkpoints to the downtown area
- Local businesses are happy for the change
- Leaders want people to still come downtown and feel safe
Mayor Dyer announced Monday that entry checkpoints will be set up as soon as this weekend for those who want to go to the area.
John SanFelippo owns many downtown bars, restaurants and music venues such as The Social, The Beachem and Aero.
“Twelve in all in downtown Orlando,” he said. “We have been here for 27 years, we are not going anywhere.”
His longevity in the downtown area was one of the reasons he was devastated when he heard the news of a shooting that injured seven, just yards from his businesses.
“Well, that’s bad, isn’t it?” he said. “I mean, nobody wants to hear about violence happening anywhere, and especially when it’s at your front door.”
SanFelippo said he was excited to hear the city and Orlando Police were taking action. The current plan is to bring six access control points – which will help monitor those entering and exiting the downtown area – to the area this weekend.
One of them will go outside some of the businesses of San Felippo.
“This will just be an added layer of protection to what is already being done to keep the bad elements of people coming to the center,” he said. “Where there are 20,000 to 30,000 people a night who want to come out and have a good time, and one or two people can’t ruin what we’re doing down here.”
City officials said similar checkpoints have been used three times already — for New Year’s Eve, St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco de Mayo.
“They put up their barricades and it’s kind of a drain point and people just go through, they don’t even think twice about it,” SanFelippo said. “They have gates on all sides of the exits and tell people, ‘Hey, you just have to walk down the middle.’ They have dogs out there looking for all kinds of things that don’t belong that come into downtown Orlando and mostly 99% of people just walk by without even thinking about it.”
Orlando officials say they are also supporting local businesses with the SAFE grant program — which pays 50% of the cost — up to $10,000, if approved — of security upgrades to metal detectors and security cameras.
SanFelippo said he already takes his own precautions for his businesses, warning customers and using security cameras. He hopes the businesses and the city can make people feel safe visiting the area on the weekend.
“They have to have a comfort level and they have to feel safe being in downtown Orlando,” SanFelippo said.
He said he thinks that overall Downtown Orlando is still a very safe place to visit.