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Rave New World?



The two Orlando detectives were decked out in full SWAT regalia, including ninja masks, as they fiddled with the VCR connections in Conference Room R at City Hall. The inaugural meeting of the Rave Review Task Force, a 17-member board of volunteers,was fortified with such incongruities. The fierce-looking undercover cops-faces hidden to preserve their cover and in SWAT gear because they just happened to have come from SWAT class-defended the club owners who stage early morning "raves." The board members, two of whom are under 20 but at least five of whom had previously served on the city board that gave us the teen curfew, watched the police video featuring drug deals and overdoses, and then also sounded a generally cautious tone. Jon Marsa, proprietor of The Club at Firestone, perhaps the city's best known late-night club, brought his lobbyist, Louis Rotundo, to watch the proceedings, but not to lobby the city. A couple of "concerned clubbers" got interviewed by television news teams. It was unusually weird, even by Orlando standards. The task force was assembled by Mayor Glenda Hood in the wake of national news stories about drugs in Orlando and legislation proposed by State Rep. John Morroni (R-Clearwater) that would prohibit owners from opening their establishments in the early morning hours. Morroni has the anti-rave religion, citing parallels between today's rave culture and the wretched flower children of the late 1960s. His bill, now pending before the full house, is based on ordinances passed in Tampa and Hillsborough County. The trouble with local prohibition is that it simply displaces the prohibited activity, with concomitant increases in dangerous driving, unsupervised overdosing and other unpleasantness. But while Morroni (and State Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Captain Bruce Ashley and Orlando Police Chief Bill Kennedy) wants to ban raves outright, city leaders want to accommodate them downtown, through local regulations. "If it was up to local politics, I think we would have the raves," says Downtown Development Board Chairman Tom Kohler, who spoke to the rave task force. "If ( the laws are written) at the state level, I think they'll take some other course." City Attorney Scott Gabrielson: "I have some concerns that Tallahassee is going to try to decide what's best for the community." Marsa praised the Mayor's "prudent" handling of previous clashes between downtown club culture and the needs of church-going, family-values folks. "My biggest concern is, they're not paying enough attention to the state's bill,' Marsa said of the city. "If we don't get the amendment to the ordinance we're seeking, it's all academic." The amendment in question, ghost-written by lobbyist Rotundo and offered to Sen. Buddy Dyer (D-Orlando) in Dyer's Senate Communtiy Affairs committee, would allow Marsa and other liquor-license holders to stage raves, but not to lease their establishments to anyone else. Dyer was poised to amend the bill as such on Tuesday of this week when Morroni got wind of the plan. The two men met, and the amendment was not offered. "Basically, Mr Marsa's amendment would be like gutting my bill," says Morroni. "And we're not going to pass a bill that does nothing." Morroni expects state legislators to wait for word from the Orlando task force before a vote on final passage. "Glenda Hood sent me a eral nice letter," he says. Rotundo says the ammendment would not gut the law but instead target enforcement on traveling promoters who may not hire sufficient security and who, at any rate, compete with his client. Chinkara Singh-Derewa, a 19-yr old communications student at the University of Central Florida and member of the rave task force, says she's hopeful that the city will adopt an ordinance that allows the dances to continue. The drug drenched poice video was accurate as far as it went, she says, "but it didn't show why we go there. It's about the music, and the show, the fabulous lighting patterns. People have this image of people making music on drugs, and they don't do that; I know these guys." At 9 a.m. this past Sunday, black-shirted Firestone security staff are pushing the kids off the street corner. Joshua, Sarah and Andrea are holding forth on tribal unity. "We need some good press," Joshua says. "A lot of bad stuff has beeen written about us." Yeah, there's a lot of drugs, the kids say, but banning raves will just drive it underground. They've seen friends die from overdoses, but say serious rave kids are in it for the music, the scene. "We're like the hippies," Joshua says. "We all just iove each other. If someone doesn't have a place to stay, they can stay with me. They can all stay with me."

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