Wednesday, September 10, 1997 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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All-Night Raves Banned By Orlando Ordinance -- Attempt To Diminish Drug Use Leads To Restrictions On City's Bars And Nightclubs


ORLANDO, Fla. - It's 3 a.m. on a recent Sunday morning and while most of downtown's club crawlers are in bed, the party is just beginning for 19-year-old Damian Kiomento and his friends.

With flashing colored lights and deep pounding bass, Kiomento and hundreds of other young adults at The Club at Firestone will dance until sunrise and beyond.

But the crowd of ravers soon will have to find a new place to dance. On Monday, the Orlando City Council voted 5-2 to shut down the city's bars and nightclubs at 3 a.m.

The ordinance targets the parties, known as raves, leaving restaurants and theme parks alone. Current law lets clubs stay open indefinitely, as long as alcohol sales stop at 2 a.m.

City officials said illegal drugs were part of the attraction of the all-night raves.

Clubgoers said the ordinance will squelch a blossoming techno music scene, while the parties will simply move on.

"It has the potential to be the killing blow to the electronica music scene," Jon Marsa, owner of the Firestone, where local and international disc jockeys came to spin "house music."

Rolling Stone magazine dubbed Orlando "the Seattle of electronica." The Northwest city was the breeding ground for "grunge," the late '80s music style.

It's not the music so much as the drug use that convinced city leaders to act.

"We know for a fact that there is drug use at these raves," said Mayor Glenda Hood. "We know we cannot eliminate drug abuse with an ordinance, but we will do our best to make Orlando safe."

Supporters of the ordinance say drugs used at the clubs include Ecstasy, heroin and Rohypnol, better known as the date-rape drug.

The law won't stop the drug use, Kiomento said.

Parties will move underground - to people's homes, warehouses and motel rooms.

"When someone is passed out on the floor here, security will call an ambulance. If it's at a warehouse, people will lay them on the floor and throw ice on them," said 18-year-old Nicole Dumas.

The ordinance won't take effect until Sept. 18.

On this Sunday morning, it was time to dance.

Inside the dark club, flashing blue, green and white lights silhouetted shirtless men dancing on raised platforms under glittering disco balls.

Kiomento lit a cigarette and began swinging his hips to a pounding bass beat as his friend - 22-year-old Ben Sparas, his face in makeup and sprinkled with glitter - hugged and kissed a group of men.

A tall transvestite in a blond wig shouted greetings to people.

There was no visible drug use, but the clubgoers said it was common, just hard to see.

The heavy beat made the young dancers's baggy jeans and polyester shirts vibrate as they moved on the dance floor.

Marsa said the city is cracking down on a type of music scene that politicians don't understand. Electronica, he said, is the disco of the 1990s.

Copyright (c) 1997 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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