Expect the St. Charles Liquor Commission to consider advancing a proposal to change the city’s liquor licenses to a midnight closing, and requiring taverns to buy either 1 a.m. or a 2 a.m. late-night permits that would be re-evaluated annually.
Mayor Raymond Rogina, who by law also wears the hat of the city’s liquor commissioner, outlines his vision for reforms to the liquor code that he hopes would help the city rein in problems related to over-service of alcohol.
The problems are booze-fueled fights, public drunkenness, public urination and occasionally people passed out on sidewalks or in parking lots after a night of heavy drinking. At least a few on the City Council believe these issues are related to over-serving alcohol to patrons.
Downtown tavern owners have taken steps to work with the city to improve the situation — and for much of the spring and summer, complaints seemed to die down until August, when they seemed to accelerate again.
Rogina laid out his “talking points” for what he would like to see change in the liquor code as the St. Charles Liquor Commission met Monday afternoon. While he did not request a formal vote on his plan, the consensus of the three commissioners present seemed to be very positive.
The points Rogina presented to the commission included:
Liquor license classifications that dictate how later an establishment can stay open would be eliminated. All liquor licenses instead would carry a midnight closing time, with the exception of package liquor retailers, whose hours would remain unchanged.
A 2 a.m. late-night permit would be created with a cost equivalent to the $2,600 liquor license owners pay now for their 2 a.m. licenses.
A slightly cheaper 1 a.m. later night permit also would be created to give taverns more flexibility.
Late-night permits would be reviewed annually by the City Council to consider whether the individual establishments have earned the right to continue to have the permit for another year.
Another aspect to Rogina’s proposal would be to have the city staff come back before the liquor commission next month with a proposed list of criteria for judging who can or cannot keep their permit for the coming year.
Generally the idea is that the decision would be based upon the establishment keeping a clean record with the city and police department for the year, but that’s not always clean-cut. Lamkin said sometimes there are issues that don’t rise to the level of a liquor code complaint but still indicate a problem.
Another point raised as a possible criterion is that some establishments have misled the city in the past, although commissioners did not say which ones or how the city was misled.
Also to be considered, Rogina said, would be whether the city might withhold a 2 a.m. permit but allow a 1 a.m. permit to be issued. If so, the code would have to spell out which criteria would be used to reduce a 2 a.m. permit to 1 a.m., and which would warrant a complete revocation of the late-night permit for the next year, requiring the establishment to close at midnight.
Rogina made it clear he wants objective criteria that considers such things as liquor code violations and other factors.
Police Chief Jim Lamkin told the commission there are other issues — patterns of behavior by an establishment, for example, that might not rise to the level of a liquor code violation but which the city might want to consider in such deliberations.
Rogina wants to have the new system in place before liquor license renewals next spring — perhaps by the end of the year, so that any new establishments opening at that time would be licensed under the new liquor code. Existing establishments would be required to comply with the new code as they renew their licenses in the spring of 2014.
Other concerns will have to be addressed, although Lamkin said that some concerns — like keeping track of which establishments are open to midnight vs. 1 or 2 a.m. — will be a matter of adjusting the police department’s procedures.