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.