City officials appear intent on pushing through at least three ordinance changes they hope will give the city better leverage in dealing with liquor-related problems in downtown St. Charles.
Aldermen, meeting Monday as the St. Charles City Council Government Services Committee, directed the city staff to draw up changes to city ordinances that would:
a) Redefine the difference between a tavern license and a restaurant license, most likely predicated on a percentage of food vs. beverage sales.
b) Replaces the city’s one liquor commissioner, a position held by the mayor, with a commission representing the mayor as commissioner, plus a mix of aldermen and residents who would work together in levying penalties for liquor code violations, among other duties.
c) Create a general closing time for all liquor licenses plus a special permit that would be purchased by those establishments wanting to remain open until 2 a.m.
The committee action came after a wide-ranging, 50-minute discussion of the City Council’s concerns about fighting, public intoxication and related issues haunting the downtown bar scene since August 2012, when the City Council threatened to cut back bar hours from 2 a.m. to 1 a.m.
Police Chief Jim Lamkin started Monday night’s discussion with a review of crime statistics from the past three years related to police responses to various bar situations, as well the city’s research into possible model ordinances, based on earlier suggestions by aldermen, that would provide the city with a number of options for dealing with infractions and ongoing problems.
Lamkin’s assessment of the crime stats he presented was one he has made before — that since the issue boiled over in August, the tavern owners have worked with police to make changes that have had a positive impact in reducing problems.
Ultimately, aldermen expressed some dissatisfaction with the over-service of alcoholic beverage to patrons, an issue Lamkin acknowledged is not where it needs to be.
That may mean improving the training for bars and their staffs, and Lamkin said it also could mean raising the fines a second time for liquor violations by patrons — the city already has raised the fine to $100 for public drunkenness and public urination, and to $500 from $300 for public fighting.
- March 25, 2013: Review St. Charles Patch's Live-Blog of the March 25 Government Services Committee
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