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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