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Internet cafes surprised City Council is shutting them down

Ordinance passed Tuesday aims to ban simulated gaming devices

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – By February, the more than 200 adult arcades -- or what used to be called internet cafés -- in Jacksonville should be closed.  

The City Council unanimously approved a measure Tuesday night banning simulated gaming devices.  

Some owners of the arcades, like Ryan Strickland, said the ban took them by surprise because they weren't expecting the council to take action during the meeting.

Strickland owns two arcades and said he was working with the council to try and find a middle ground. He said he did not know the council was voting on the measure Tuesday.   

“It means a lot of local community jobs will be lost as well,” Strickland said. “Which is unfortunate, because over the years, we’ve gotten a work family and become very close with employees.”

Councilman Al Ferraro filed the bill, saying the use of simulated games at internet cafes had become a public nuisance.

"This is about public safety," Ferraro said. "This isn't about trying to figure out if it's legal or illegal."

The City Council pointed to statistics that show from January 2018 to April 2019 police have responded to 504 calls for service to adult arcades.

On May 1, a man was shot and killed during a robbery at an adult arcade on the Westside. Douglas Cox tried to save a life and lost his own life in the process.

Strickland said he understands closing the ones without permits, but he said those that are operating legitimately should be allowed to stay open.

“There is a lot of conversation going on. I think there are angles both politically and legally that need to be addressed,” Strickland said.    
The city is now working to find out how it will go about shutting down the adult arcades. The plan is to immediately go after those arcades without permits.  

News4Jax has been looking into those establishments and has learned there are more than 100 that are opened without  Certificates of Use -- a permit issued by the city which is required before arcades can even open.  

Representatives with the Mayor’s Office said they will meet to talk about that with the sheriff and other law enforcement officials to work out a plan.  

The ordinance is scheduled to take effect August 1. Licensed businesses would have six months from August 1 to get rid of the machines. City Council could reconsider that deadline.

Currently approved internet cafes

About the Author:

Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.