After two hours of debate at their Tuesday meeting, Lawrence city commissioners sent back the latest draft of a controversial ordinance regulating local drinking establishments and private clubs for more changes.
"The (state) Alcoholic Beverage Commission has encouraged us to adopt an ordinance like this, but the ordinance we have before us may not be perfect yet," Commission Bob Schulte said.
The proposed ordinance would allow the commission to revoke the city liquor license of a drinking establishment or private club if the business continually threatens public safety.
The ordinance is intended to help the city deal with the few bars that foster criminal activity, such as vandalism, theft and assault, and spoil surrounding neighborhoods, Commissioner Bob Schumm said.
SCHUMM SUGGESTED fine-tuning the ordinance to give the city the power to revoke a liquor license before it comes up for renewal. As the ordinance reads now, it would allow commissioners to re-evaluate licenses only at renewal time each year.
"In addition to annual review, I think we should have the option to step in when there's a problem," Schumm said.
Members of several neighborhood groups agreed with Schumm that the ordinance needs a few more teeth.
"It is most important for the city to have this leverage," said Jennifer Brown, coordinator of the Oread Neighborhood Assn. "We need the ability to deal with these problems at home."
Schumm also suggested changing a section in the ordinance requiring bar and club owners to "take actions" to eliminate the harm to public welfare.
THE SECTION should be amended to read that the city manager would be responsible for prescribing measures an owner should take to cut down on violations.
"Someone has to call the shots, and I think that person should be the city manager," Schumm said.
Some of the bar and club owners present at the meeting tried to derail the ordinance by saying public safety problems would be best handled by increased law enforcement, not an ordinance.
Lt. David Cobb of the Lawrence Police Department responded that while a recent increase in police officers has cut down on problems at local clubs and bars, they can't prevent all the nuisances.
"There are still situations where we have asked owners for cooperation in dealing with a problem and haven't gotten a lot of cooperation," Cobb said.
THE BAR OWNERS and managers also balked at a section of the ordinance that would hold them responsible for the actions of their patrons after the customers left the business.
"Once people leave my establishment, how am I supposed to control what they do?" asked Mike Lehman, food and beverage director of the Lawrence Holidome, 200 McDonald Dr.
"Are you responsible for what your guests do after they leave a party at your house?" Lehman said.
Rita Conroy, owner of Ricky Dean's, 117 E. Eighth, suggested that the ordinance could work against the commission's intentions.
Conroy told the commissioners that she was afraid to call the police during a recent altercation at her bar because she thought it would make her business look bad.
Commissioners directed Dave Corliss, city management analyst and author of the ordinance, to draft a revised ordinance reflecting the suggestions of the commissioners and public. They decided to discuss the new draft of the ordinance at their meeting Jan. 14.
LATER IN the meeting, commissioners set a date to consider a request from Douglas County Development Inc. for a break on property taxes on a building in the East Hills Business Park.
DCDI officials are trying to lure an occupant to the building with the promise of an inexpensive lease, that would be possible with the money saved by the tax abatement.
The city's Administrative Review Committee reviewed the request and recommended that the commission grant the tax abatement.
Commissioners scheduled a public hearing to consider approving the request for Dec. 17.
If the abatement is approved, DCDI would receive a 50 percent break on property taxes on the construction of a concrete warehouse facility in the building needed by the prospective tenant.
The "shell" building property is worth $190,000, according to the abatement application. The proposed warehouse facility is valued at $1,710,000.
Over the proposed 10-year period, the abatement would save DCDI $473,920, according to the review committee's report.
The identity of the prospective tenant remains a secret. DCDI officials say they will not name the Kansas City company until the lease is signed.
IN OTHER action Tuesday, commissioners:
Proclaimed the week of Dec. 1-7 "Home Care Week"; the week of Dec. 8-14 "Toys for Tots Remember the Feeling Week"; and the period between Dec. 5 and Jan. 5 "Project ReDirectory Month"; recognized the Lawrence High School Lions Volleyball Team as the 1991-1992 Kansas Class 6A state volleyball champions; recognized the LHS Lions football team as the 1991-1992 Kansas Class 6A state football champions.
In one motion, commissioners unanimously approved the following consent agenda items:
Minutes of previous commission meeting and various city organization meetings.
Payment of city expenses.
On final reading an ordinance adopting the 1988 Uniform Plumbing Code and amendments thereto.
A site plan for a manufacturing facility to process shoes to be located at 2000 Moodie Rd.
On the regular agenda, commissioners:
Discussed the city's appeal to the Kansas Supreme Court of a case stemming from a disputed demolition permit for the Old English Lutheran Chruch at 11th and New Hampshire.
Received easement vacation request concerning 912 Andover Ct.; directed city staff to start procedures for setting a public hearing on the property vacation request.
Deferred receiving and discussing staff report concerning fees for planning permits to an unspecified commission meeting.
Discussed commission concerns and goals for the Community Development Block Grant program; directed city staff to draft a letter to the CDBG Advisory Committee saying that the commission supports funding the Legal Aid program with CDGB funds at the same level as the previous year.
Approved on first reading an ordinance prohibiting the parking of vehicles with unlawful display of license plates.
Referred to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board for comment a letter from Youth Sports Inc., asking that the city help complete improvements to the YSI sports facility.
Referred to city staff for review and comment a letter from Wakarusa River Greens asking the city to assist in creating a foundation for the funding of greenways.