On Monday, Royal Oak city commissioners proved they don’t mind staying up late – or dancing.
In a meeting that adjourned at 11:34 p.m., commissioners tackled many issues but none drew more public comment than whether Fifth Avenue bar should be granted a dance permit.
The popular downtown nightclub asked the city to allow it to add a 10-feet by 10-feet dance floor on its first floor and another 10-feet by 14-feet dance space on the second floor.
In a report to city officials, the Royal Oak Police Department urged commissioners to deny the request. “To be clear, this recommendation (to not allow a dance floor) is based on our critically low police resources, not the operator's ability to properly manage this establishment,” Lt. Tom Goad wrote.
The issue drew about a half-dozen residents to weigh in during public comment time.
"It took 10 years for Royal Oak to get new dance permits released," resident George Gomez said. "I haven't seen any documentation that says since the licenses were released that arrests have quadrupled or multiplied in numbers that we can't manage."
Gomez told commissioners that dancing isn't evil, supplying patrons with too much liquor is. "This is an injustice that we have been feeling for years," he said. "Let's move forward."
George Greenough also likes the idea. "I think having live music and dancing at Fifth Avenue is a great way to differentiate it from some of the other venues," he said.
"We had problems with dancing in this town when I was in high school and the nuns kept whacking me in the shoulders," Greenough joked. "But I would like to see this (dance permit) go forward. I see it as another way for people to have a good time while they are here."
Commissioner Peggy Goodwin liked the idea of a dance floor combined with live music. "We don't have any live entertainment in downtown Royal Oak anymore, other than the Royal Oak Music Theatre," Goodwin said. She hoped the dance floor would help the establishment get back to its original roots.
Ultimately, the motion to allow the dance permit was adopted, with Mayor Pro Tem Patricia Capello and Commissioner David Poulton voting against the measure.
Cappello said the Fifth Avenue establishment is located at "the conflux of where intoxicated people gather at 2 a.m." – it is next door to O'Toole's bar and across the street from Woody's Diner – and worried dancing would make an already large crowd there even bigger.
"If and when we resolve our police resources, that would be a time when I would give this more consideration," Cappello said.
During Monday night's discussion, Commissioner Jim Rasor told his colleagues he thinks dancing was harmless. Tuesday, Rasor said he can only speculate what the opposition to dancing is about.
"I think it's a throwback to a time when people looked at dancing as vulgar, and something that leads to more alcohol consumption and sex," he said. "But there is no evidence that it has led to anything bad happening in the city.
"We've got some real problems to solve and dancing isn't one of them.