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Stillwater City Council Considers Tightening Up Liquor Ordinance for Downtown Bars

The Stillwater City Council unanimously passed the first reading of an amendment to the city's liquor code aimed at "improving conduct" at downtown drinking establishments.

The Stillwater City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved the first reading of an amendment to the city’s alcohol ordinance that is aimed at “improving conduct” at some downtown drinking establishments.

Currently, the city’s ordinance covers a variety of issues ranging from selling alcohol after hours and serving minors to tax evasion, but nothing that holds liquor license holders accountable for the conduct in and around their establishment, City Attorney David Magnuson said Wednesday afternoon.

The new amendment to the city ordinance includes several provisions that define “habitual violators” and would allow the city to issue citations for violations that are found by the city to be unacceptable, Magnuson said. If the amendment passes, the city's liquor code would include disorderly conduct, assault, unlawful assembly, noise and outdoor music violations and trespassing.

“This is not intended to hassle anyone except those who have gone over the edge with regards to the number of police calls to an establishment,” Magnuson said. “In some cases police have been called 30 times this year. This is a way to put pressure on license holders to improve conduct.”

If the amendment passes, any combination of six conduct-related incidents reported at a drinking establishment over the course of a year could mean a violation and citation.

If an establishment is found in violation, an administrative hearing officer would take the severity of the violation into consideration—along with the number of reported incidents—and determine a penalty.

“The fine and suspension would ratchet up with each violation the license holder receives,” Magnuson said. “We think they have to do a better job of controlling what happens in their establishment and they have to be accountable.”

Those penalties could ultimately reach as high as a $2,000 fine and a suspension of the liquor license for up to 90 days.

The license premises, in terms of the amendment to the city ordinance, would include conduct that occurs inside the establishment, immediately outside the establishment and on the adjacent sidewalk or street.

Washington County Watchdog October 20, 2012 at 02:30 AM
Thank you so much Shawn for the article and follow up. We really appreciate the info and time you put in to the articles and the responses.
grasshopper October 20, 2012 at 08:59 PM
Uh Matt, what law would this be?..... "It's not the law enforcement's fault (the cops) it's the court's... the cops legally can't camp outside of bars waiting for drunks to get in their cars and turn the key... yes there is a law against that." I believe as long as there on public property they can do exactly this.
grasshopper October 20, 2012 at 09:11 PM
I just read the actual proposal, what this thing says is that if a patron leaves a different bar or arrives at a bar inebriated he can cause trouble on the sidewalk outside the premises (even after being denied entry) or conversely a bar can do the right thing and kick out an unruly patron and still be charged for his actions outside the bar, sounds to me like the lawyers are going to be the ones making money off this plan.
Monique Hammer November 05, 2012 at 06:16 AM
It is definitely to late for me at Pub Monique. I was very proud of what I tried to do there in the almost to 2 yrs I was there. Serving food until 2 am was very important to me. I was proud of the small amount of trouble I had there. I was really hoping to get some kind of communication open with the other downtown establishments to let them know that when I denied entry to trouble makers or when I would have them leave because they were unruly, to give the other bars a heads up so they knew not to let them in their places. Another thought would be that law enforcement would ask them to leave the city at time of incident. I had no luck with that. I worked at my family establishment in Somerset for 24 yrs and implemented a call system to warn the other restaurant and bars of the culprits so they would be saved of any further trouble! Worked nicely and formed a bond and respect for each other a form of trust system. After all the hospitality/service industry is tough enough! Everyone should be working together especially when there are that many liquor licenses in a few block radius! Teamwork! With the board the police department. Thank you Randy and grasshopper btw Monique
Larry Odebrecht November 16, 2012 at 05:09 PM
I guess I'm a little surprised by the responses. This doesn't strike me as "knee-jerk reaction". My brother-in-law was murdered in a bar fight inside a downtown bar, and the police don't have a good form of recourse against the bar (which had 9 assaults the two weeks prior). In these situations, the bar should worry about it's liquor license. It's simple common sense.

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