Lakewood Ranch sets curfew for teens on Main Street

- A new curfew for minors now requires teenagers shopping at Main Street in Lakewood Ranch to have an adult with them after 6 p.m.

Anyone under the age of 16 who is alone could be told to leave under the new policy.

It follows complaints from both residents and business owners about unruly teenagers in the popular shopping plaza over the past year.

"The teen issue was definitely an issue," said Gabriele Vest, who used to live in an apartment above the shopping center. "We had exploding golf balls thrown at our windows, those little snap things that you throw on the ground and they explode, they would leave them outside of your door and outside of the elevator."

She said the large groups of teens caused the most problems the first Friday of each month during the "Music on Main" event.

According to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office, on July 1, a group of juveniles playing with a cigarette lighter started a fire at the Starbucks on Main Street. Witnesses reported seeing the teens toss a burning newspaper onto some outdoor seating. They tried to put it out but ran away as the flames grew out of control. The teens were later caught.

Renee Towns says her jewelry store has attracted some unwanted guests.

"The back door of my store is in a dark corner. We get a lot of young ones that are getting 'friendly' with one another, I would say," explained Towns. She said she's hoping more parents will start to accompany their children, rather than dropping them off at the shopping center.

Lakewood Ranch officials said the curfew will be enforced on a case-by-case basis. Young people caught misbehaving will be asked to leave or to wait until their parents arrive.

"I think it's really unfortunate that this rule has now been passed, but I think it's a necessary evil," said Vest. "I think kids have to learn that there are consequences for your actions, and this is the consequence."

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