Greater state control over activity in and around nightclubs is the aim of a bill introduced Monday in the Kansas Senate.
The bill, introduced by Sen. Wint Winter Jr., R-Lawrence, would toughen the licensing statute to allow the state to revoke or refuse to renew the licenses of private clubs and drinking establishments that violated provisions of the law.
Winter introduced the legislation, which would amend the Alcoholic Beverage Control Division's operating statutes, at the request of residents and city officials concerned about ongoing disturbances in and around area nightclubs.
"I'm optimistic about it," Winter said this morning of the bill's chances of passage. "I think it is hard to argue against."
The city is working on an ordinance that would similarly increase the city's options in dealing with nightclubs that create a nuisance.
UNDER THE bill, the state could revoke or suspend licenses of clubs that allow within 1,000 feet of their premises conduct which constitutes "a danger or harm to public safety, health and welfare."
Included would be disorderly conduct, assault, battery, criminal trespassing, vandalism, theft, possession of or dealing in controlled substances, illegal possession of alcohol, consumption of alcohol in a public place and unlawful use of weapons.
It also would allow revocation for disorderly conduct on the premises, previous violations, employees who are intoxicated while on duty, gambling and other reasons.
Winter said some restaurants that serve liquor could be opposed to the bill because their licenses also would fall under the tightened regulations.
Most nightclubs operate under private club licenses, which require owners to restrict entry to members and their guests. Restaurants that serve liquor typically hold drinking establishment licenses, which do not require memberships.
"WE WILL have to see what the people who operate restaurants with these licenses think," Winter said. "But I think the people who would be against it would be people who operate nuisance clubs."
Winter was unsure this morning which committee would consider the bill, but said he would push for a hearing on it within two weeks
"I would hope we could get this passed into law by April 15," he said.
City Manager Mike Wildgen said, "We asked him to do this, and we are very appreciative he has taken the time and the effort."
The bill is the product of a series of meetings orchestrated by Winter between ABC officials, the state's revisor of statutes and Lawrence city and police officials.
The bill was prompted by complaints from residents about problems with noise, trash, vandalism and violence surrounding several area nightclubs.
A shooting late last year at Pizazz, 901 Miss., increased the interest in greater regulation of clubs.