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Archive for Friday, January 10, 1992

S NEWEST PLAN

January 10, 1992

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A city proposal to tighten control of local drinking establishments, despite undergoing numerous revisions, continues to draw criticism from bar owners.

"No input of ours has been seriously considered," said Ken Wallace, owner of the Jayhawk Cafe, 1340 Ohio. "It's clear that the city had an idea of what it wants and is going to get it.

Lawrence city commissioners will discuss and hear public reaction to the latest draft ordinance at their next meeting, 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at city hall, Sixth and Massachusetts.

The ordinance would allow commissioners to revoke the city license of a bar or club if they find the business habitually threatens public safety.

IF COMMISSIONERS approve of the latest draft without suggesting changes, the process of adopting the ordinance would be set in motion, said Dave Corliss, city management analyst.

City officials say the ordinance's purpose is to rid the city of the few bad apples whose bars foster criminal activity, such as vandalism, theft and assault, and spoil surrounding neighborhoods.

Under the ordinance, commissioners could revoke, suspend or place conditions on the license of a club or drinking establishment if they find it's a public nuisance.

Bar and club owners have tried to soften the ordinance, singling out vague terms and attacking a section that holds them responsible for the actions of their patrons after they leave the bar or club.

The commissioners suggested fine-tuning the ordinance after hearing support and criticism during a meeting Dec. 3.

CHANGES IN the draft include:

Allowing commissioners to place conditions on a bar or club's license at any time, instead of only when the license is up for renewal, upon finding that the business threatens public safety or welfare.

Giving the city manager the authority to recommend conditions for allowing the bar or club to renew or keep its license.

Dropping a section allowing the chief of police to recommend that clubs or bars close earlier than normal in the interest of public safety.

Dropping the term "continual" public nuisance in favor of "habitual" public nuisance, which is easier to define.

Before taking action against a business, requiring the commission to find that the harm to public welfare can be linked fairly to the business, and that the harm is not limited to infrequent, isolated incidents.

IN A PREVIOUS draft of the ordinance, commissioners also were required to find that the harm to public safety included broken laws and that the owners didn't take action to correct the problems.

"It sounds to me that they're making it a lot easier for themselves," Wallace said of the latest draft of the ordinance.

Wallace dismissed the newest changes, saying that the ordinance has not changed significantly since its first draft.

"I'm not going to deny there are problems, but the question is, are you going to solve them by closing a bar, or is that just going to move (the problems) to another location," he said.

Wallace said current state liquor laws are strict enough to handle problem bars. Any additional concerns could be addressed with a cooperative effort between owners and the city.

CITY OFFICIALS have said the ordinance was designed especially to deal with uncooperative owners.

Copies of the draft are being sent today to more than 30 people who told the city they were interested in the ordinance, said Corliss, who authored the ordinance.

To adopt the draft, the commissioners would place it on the consent agendas of the next two commission meetings for first and second readings.

Although commissioners can pull items from the consent agenda for further discussion, the majority of the items are passed in one motion.

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