BTL Park - it's Belize's most popular social hub, a virtual entertainment strip - and many bars and restaurants have sprung up around it to feed into the stream of party-goers who throng to the area. And while those good timers go there for the freedom to float from maybe a casino or movie theater, to a restaurant, to a bar, to a nightclub, to the seafront - all within quarter mile of each other - in the late night and early morning hours, for residents of the area, the whole scene is just one big noisy nuisance.

The mayor and his councillors were squarely confronted with that complaint last night at a consultation, and like Saul on the Road to Damascus - Mayor Darrell Bradley had a revelation: the partying until all hours has to stop! He told us why today:...

Jules Vasquez, reporting:
Yesterday evening, residents of the Newtown Barracks area came out for a public consultation that turned out to be a neighborhood referendum on entertainment establishments that now dominate what was originally a residential area.

Darrell Bradley - Mayor, Belize City
"The general view was that people in the area, who live in the area very dissatisfied with the level of oversight and control in relation to the noise. They voiced very strong opinions in relation to the granting of extensions"

Extensions like this one- the city sells them to bars and nightclubs like hotcakes. It's 35 dollars per hours to extend opening hours usually to 4:00 AM- not exactly big money but it's three of four nights and week, and with all the nightspots in the city, it adds up to a nice chunk of change for the city. And for that revenue stream, the city council has been willfully ignoring the letter of the extension itself.

Darrell Bradley - Mayor, Belize City
"The law provides that these extensions should only be given to premises that are soundproof. I shared with you the extension form itself and the permission itself which quotes the law and it has a section that says this document is null and void unless the premises, that the liquor license is being granted for, is soundproof. So we continually do things which are illegal."

Jules Vasquez - Reporter
"You can't afford to not sell these extensions. The reason you do it in abeyance of the law is because it's a source of revenue for the council. Is the council prepared to walk away from that source of revenue?"

Darrell Bradley- Mayor, Belize City
"Well, I think that one of the things that was rightly pointed out by members who attend the consultation last night is that it's a balance. Yes, you collect revenue from the selling of extensions. But equally so, you collect a significant amount of revenue from property taxes from the residents themselves."

Jules Vasquez - Reporter
"You are quoting the law indeed but mayor the law was not written this morning. This law has been in existence for many many years- certainly as long as you've been in the council. You all are willfully ignoring the law in favor of earning revenues. It's unfair to now just say: Well, completely change of direction."

Darrell Bradley- Mayor, Belize City
"I will readily not retreat from this-this has really been a failing in relation to this council and to the extent that it has been a failing I have to accept responsibility because I am the mayor."

And he shoulders that responsibility in an internal memorandum sent out this morning. The Mayor wrote to his entire council management team saying that there will be no extensions granted to facilities that are not soundproofed. He added that the Pickwick club only has an indoor nightclub license so it cannot play music outside, and that noise in general in the area should be reduced in consideration of residents. Additionally, he says Hour Bar, which is Belize's top concert venue, quote, "should not be licensed to hold outside concerts, especially not to 4:00 am." The stern and severe directive has the council very divided and owners of these establishments scratching their heads.

Jules Vasquez
"How much of this is the city turning on its own vision because I have heard you say when we started BTL Park that you envisioned this as an entertainment strip. And now you realize how offended the residents are by this. Also, you want to run in that constituency- reality- I'm saying that now it seems that the council is doing an about turn, a flip-flop, on its own vision for the BTL Park area."

Darrell Bradley- Mayor, Belize City
"Jules, it's not a flip-flop. We will never resile from the fact that our strategy always has to be to promote economic development and job creation within Belize City. We need to ensure that what we are talking about, in terms of economic development, is a means to an end, that you are also looking at an end game which is the quality of life of your residents. Yes, I want this area to be an entertainment zone. Does that mean that people have to be partying until 4 o' clock in the morning? No! Does that mean that people have to be throwing garbage on other people's yard, cursing, urinating? - People were talking about feces being left in front of their premises- that's not economic development. That's not the kind of quality living experience that we hope to engender within Belize City."

Jules Vasquez
"I'm saying that you are the cause of the problem and now you are saying: man this dah wah big problem. It's your problem, you created it."

Darrell Bradley- Mayor, Belize City
"Well, I mean, I won't resile from anything. The reality is, as I said before, I'm the mayor; so that, to the extent that there is the granting of a license and there is the granting of an extension, I'm ultimately responsible."

And the mayor has wider concerns for this growing entertainment strip which is about to see three new bars and restaurants opened. The new Midway Restaurant is almost finished, while Sit and Sip and Wingz Stop will soon move into this building.

Darrell Bradley- Mayor, Belize City
"One of the things that I am seeing is that area that we refer to as the entertainment strip, that area will not be able to handle the amount of traffic, the security concerns. There are three additional businesses that are going to go in that area, restaurants slash bars. And that's going to have an impact with the community. One of the things that we are looking at quite seriously also is the issue of traffic. You have on weekends a problem with parking. You cannot park along the area of New Town Barracks. With all of the surrounding businesses and with BTL Park there is no parking. And so what you are doing is taking up in front of people's homes- that in itself causes an impact. And now you are having three additional business go in that area."

And where does Pier One fit into all this? That's the bar inside the BTL Park with ownership interest from one of Mayor Bradley's councilors:

Darrell Bradley- Mayor, Belize City
"My understanding is that they have a public and special license. That allows you to go to midnight; so that the establishment should close at midnight. If you have Peer One, Thirsty Thursdays, if you have the premises that are at Pickwick, they have to apply within what the law says and if the law says a certain time and the law says that you are to be soundproofed, the residents have a 100% rightful expectation that we should follow that."

The council has never followed the law before, but like the newly religious, the Mayor is determined to make this right - at whatever cost to the entertainment economy.

Darrell Bradley- Mayor, Belize City
"Even if we have sinned we can beg for forgiveness and say you know what we will try to make amends."

The City Council had a caucus meeting planned for tomorrow to discuss a range of topics, but the focus of that meeting has now shifted almost exclusively to this sharp change in policy decreed by the mayor. Opinion within the councilors and the council management is sharply divided on this issue.

Where Will Concerts Go Now?

So, if the Mayor has now put a block on concerts at the Hour Bar Field - where will all the major performers play? That sea front field has hosted artists from Machel to Damian Marley, to Kes, to Taurus Riley…you name it - and that's where they play. But, the Mayor in his letter to the council says, "no more". Today he discussed the reason and the possible alternatives:...

Darrell Bradley- Mayor, Belize City
"A lot of this had precipitated because really and truly there is not an adequate indoors facility to house concerts. When we had the old civic center we didn't have this kind of issue. I think when we have the new civic center some of these problems will be allayed because there will be facilities to deal with it. If you have these open air facilities and you are playing music, even if you are permitted to play the music to 10 o' clock or to 12 o' clock, you have a certain obligation to keep the noise within acceptable limits. But I think it is unreasonable to have an open air activity going up until 4 o'clock in the morning, and some people say that it goes for beyond 4 o'clock."

We note that the City Center is a sports facility and hurricane shelter with a 32 million dollar price tag - and it has not been announced if concerts will be held there.

Channel 7