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Rogina Pitches St. Charles Liquor Code Reforms

St. Charles alderman and candidate for mayor polishes suggestions he offered during Monday’s City Council committee meeting.

A St. Charles mayoral candidate is calling for “commonsense reforms to the liquor code” he believes will help to settle down alcohol-related problems that sparked a proposal in August to cut back the business hours for bars and taverns.

Third Ward Alderman Ray Rogina on Tuesday pitched the proposals he first offered as a question and some suggestions Monday night to his fellow aldermen, who were meeting as the City Council Government Operations Committee.

Rogina asked the city staff Monday night to see if there is a model — ostensibly an ordinance already in use by another community — that treats the 2 a.m. closing time as a privilege that needs to receive City Council approval year by year.

Doing so, he said in a release he issued Tuesday, would make the later hour “contingent upon responsible management and an annual review by the City Council.”

Rogina also called for revising the liquor code to spell out specific consequences for bar owners cited for violations. Monday night, he said the code leaves the liquor commission too much flexibility in meting out punishment.

“Clarity in defining punishment takes subjectivity out of enforcement,” he wrote Tuesday. “A step process leading to (liquor license) revocation should be clearly enumerated. Of course, due process is always a required element.

“Liquor licensees are valued merchants of our community and we are grateful for the role they play in creating a viable entertainment district in downtown St. Charles,” he continued. “But all of us have an interest in ensuring that their operation is not disruptive to the larger community.”

Rogina expounded upon a third point he raised Monday in regard to restaurants that become de facto bars once they close their kitchens. The liquor code, he said, should clarify the different license classes “to more clearly delineate the differences between restaurants that serve alcoholic drinks with food and those that do not.

“Right now, a restaurant that has a primary objective of food sales with a liquor license can be classified in the same category with a bar that serves food,” he said. “Let's separate the two and ask ourselves the question, ‘How many bars do we want?’

“It is in everyone’s interests to professionalize and modernize the enforcement of liquor control in St. Charles,” Rogina said.  “We want people to enjoy St. Charles day or night, yet we also must ensure that unlawful behavior is not tolerated.”

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Henry James January 30, 2013 at 05:11 AM
Mr. Rogina I am glad to see you are willing to do something to help improve this situation. You have some good ideas and I hope we see these changes.Enough is enough.
David Amundson January 30, 2013 at 06:47 AM
Amen! This is a good start, and if it went further, it could make for some even more meaningful changes. Looking at Geneva's liquor licensing code is really all we need to do. B-Class liquor licenses are for restaurants, while C-Class liqour licenses are for bars. Right now, in STC there is exactly zero enforceable difference between the two. If an applicant comes before the City Council and says they want to open a fine dining establishent, but then, much to everyone's shock and dismay, they run their restaurant as a bar, the City has exactly ZERO recourse to do anything, other than to try to enforce State laws that govern liquor service. However, Geneva has this great little clause that says that their B-Class licenses must have at least 50% of their gross sales in food, which means that they MUST operate like a restaurant. Furthermore, knowing that a restaurant with a liquor license is not a threat to anybody, Geneva's liquor licensing ordinance specifically says that they will issue an unlimited number of B-Class liquor licenses. For us, 100 more Za-Za's or 100 more Francesca's in our downtown would be a most welcome addition, and the neighborhoods around the downtown would have nothing to fear, as I have read exactly zero Police Blotter reports that implicate the patrons of either of those two establishments in incidents of public urination, public drunkenness, assaults on our police officers, etc. (cont'd)
David Amundson January 30, 2013 at 07:01 AM
(cont'd) However, we have more than enough bars, and the constant spilling of electrons in the Police Blotter reports, detailing the latest round of black-eyes and embarrassments to both the City and the good folks who call this place their home have become more than we can bear. We are quickly becoming the laughing stock of Kane County, and we are sick of it. At some point in time, people cease caring, stop investing in their properties, and a vicious cycle of disinvestment and decay set in. Whether or not the folks at City Hall are aware of it or not, this attitude is starting to creep into some of the business owners on Main Street as well as the residents of the neighborhoods that surround our downtown. This is a very bad thing for the viability of our downtown long-term, and distresses me greatly, as that is where I live. We can do better than we have done these past several years. We MUST do better than we have done these past several years. This is no longer the "quaint and charming" town that I moved to 12 years ago, and I want that to change before it is too late. A tip of the hat to Ald. Rogina - may this be just the first step in some form of comprehensive reform for our downtown that leaves it better off, not worse for the wear.
Holy Moly!!! January 30, 2013 at 01:06 PM
Thank you Mr. Rogina.
Elizabeth R January 30, 2013 at 02:34 PM
It's about time. I think it's a great idea to look at options for a change in licenses and giving encentives for well run estanlishments instead of always pointing fingers 100% at business owners when it was the City who chose to issue permit to ALL OF THESE BARS! We gave them the free run to operate as David says as they wish. Geneva does has their program in order.
Terry L January 30, 2013 at 04:20 PM
Altough I agree with the new idea lets not be too quick to blame every little thing that happens in downtown St Charles on the bars. Yes they do have to do a better job but saying that because you never see any reports coming fron "restuarants" is just plain stupid and dumb. Where do you think some of these people start at before going into the bars. They start at home or in the restuarants where they have their 2 btls of wine or 3 martinis. Techinally speaking they are overserved at that point. I know this to happen qiute a bit as I use to work at one of these places. And according to the Cheif of police the number of incidents has deceased alot since the meeting in September. But that is not good enough for some of the small minded people in the city council. They want a zero incident report. Thats never going to happen where alcohol is serve. I think they want to make this town a dry town. We have already 4-5 empty stores in downtown within 100 yards of each other. Theres a reason last year St Charles was voted Number 1 place to live in America and one of the reasons it give was the vibrant night life. Are you telling me these problems only started after August. We cant have it both ways
Ted Schnell (Editor) January 30, 2013 at 05:32 PM
Actually, Terry, it came to a head in August, perhaps for the second time in 2012. I started with Patch in July, but my predecessors had written about a similar boiling point in May 2012. I believe last February, nearly a year ago now, the city granted a liquor license and some on the council were skeptical whether it was needed in St. Charles. Certainly it is a touchy issue. There is a certain level of personal responsibility among the drinking public, and the city has raised the fines on offenses like public intoxication and public fighting with hopes it will serve as a deterrent. But frequently deterrents don't work, particularly when it relates to the use of a drug that dampens inhibitions -- particularly as it relates to commonsense things, like when to stop. On the other extreme are the booze servers. They have a business to run and more sales mean better business ... up to a point. The council believes that point passed some time ago and is demanding it be pulled back. I don't believe the council expects the problem to disappear, but let's face it: I spend way too much time writing in the police reports about drinkers who become angry drunks, sloppy drunks or drunks who drive. Everybody can do better on this issue.
David Amundson January 30, 2013 at 06:55 PM
Thank you, Ted. I totally agree. There are far, far, far too many electrons spilled in this publication in an attempt keep up with the flow of stupidity that all too often follows a night of drinking in our downtown. To be clear, I'm not voicing a complaint about the reporting, I am voicing a complaint about the volume of incidents worthy of a mention in the Police Blotter that are produced by the drinking culture that the City has endorsed with the liquor licenses they issued. The City created this mess, and I welcome Ald. Rogina's initiative to try to rein it in. For those who think there is no problem, I would like to humbly suggest that you come down to the corner of 3rd Street and Main Street at about 1:45am on any summer weekend night. You will find enough Police presence to control a small riot, which is not exactly "quaint" or "charming" as so many people, understandably so, think of our town as being. The disconnect between perception and reality is quite jarring.
Ted Schnell (Editor) January 30, 2013 at 07:09 PM
Not to worry, David. I wasn't taking it as a complaint about what's being reported in the blotter. The blotter simply reflects a reality that in some people's minds has gotten out of hand.
Elizabeth R January 30, 2013 at 09:45 PM
I hope council contiues to show patience. This took years to create and will take the Bar Association some time to fully get their efforts working. Their efforts (which some will work and some won't) along with Alderman Rogina's ideas seem to be a program that could work nicely together but again it will need time. But to think it will ever be perfect as Terry L points out it unrealistic.
David Amundson January 30, 2013 at 11:41 PM
Ted - When the reality includes stepping around puddles of vomit on morning walks with my dog, it truly has gotten out of hand. It is real, disgraceful, right there in front of me, and a fairly regular reminder of just how deep in the weeds we currently are. If you have the time and want to add to the public dialog, I would highly encourage you to go knocking on the doors of merchants on Main Street, particularly on the West side, where the Police mass for battle each weekend. Ask the merchants what they see as the pros and cons of the pub culture that we have, and if it helps or hurts them. That is a critical part of this discussion that has been pretty much absent thusfar. One of my big concerns is the effect that the whole drinking culture is having on the merchants that are not part of that scene. The few I've talked to about this topic across the past few years have given incredibly animated responses to those questions when asked.
Ted Schnell (Editor) January 31, 2013 at 12:57 AM
Of course, on the other side of the coin is the bar/tavern concerns. They're feeling picked on, or so I'm told, and feeling threatened by the council attention on them. It seems to me that Chief Lamkin has been making an earnest effort with the association to find solutions, and on that end, the bar owners are cooperating -- at least for the most part. McNally's and The Office have refused to join the association. I have to wonder why. Their refusal potentially could impede the association's efforts to police itself -- and to enforce the "ban list" that is intended to keep the troublemakers out of the downtown bars. Of course that also could backfire, I suppose. I wonder how McNally's and The Office will react if all the troublemakers (there are about 20 on the "ban list" now) start flocking to to their establishments and creating problems for them. If that were to happen, it would seem to me that the City Council would have to look less favorably on those establishments because they are not trying to be a part of the solution. It will be interesting to see what kind of stats the SCPD will pull together on this -- that's may add clarity to the picture.
David Amundson February 02, 2013 at 06:51 AM
Ted - Pehaps McNally's and The Office do not want to hang signs on their front doors reminding their patrons that "Fighting is punishable by City fine?"
Elizabeth R February 02, 2013 at 08:07 PM
David, What I have heard is The Office and McNally's run very tight operations and are not part of this over serving or fighting issue. That is why they won't joint, they don't wish to be lumped in with those others. I may be wrong but I have heard that from several reliable people.

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