City commissioners are right to refocus their attention on discussions that began last summer about shoring up safety in downtown Lawrence.
Commissioners got a vivid reminder of the importance of this issue earlier this month when police officers on patrol discovered two semi-automatic guns in a vehicle parked in the 700 block of New Hampshire Street. Two Kansas City, Mo., men later were arrested on gun violations in connection with the weapons.
The discovery was the latest of a string of guns seized by Lawrence police from vehicles in the parking lot near Borders, a lot often used by patrons of Last Call, 729 N.H. In May, seven shots fired inside Last Call sent 200 people fleeing into the street, although no one was injured. In February, however, two men were shot, one fatally, outside the Granada, 1020 Mass.
This is a problem commissioners need to address now before it grows.
To that end, commissioners said Tuesday they would restart discussions next week about potential measures to deal with troublesome businesses in the city. One of the key ideas being considered is to require certain types of businesses to obtain a city entertainment license. Such a license would give the city the ability to regulate and possibly force the closure of businesses found to be the site of frequent criminal activity or security problems.
The city currently has little ability to regulate entertainment venues. City officials can request that troublesome nightclubs have their state-issued liquor licenses revoked, but a city-issued entertainment club license would boost the city's ability to monitor criminal activity and punish clubs that seem to attract such activity. A similar licensing system already is in place in Olathe.
Repeated instances of weapons being found in cars parked in Lawrence's downtown call for serious action by local officials. This situation shouldn't be tolerated anywhere in Lawrence, but especially not in downtown, which is trying to preserve a healthy retail, restaurant and entertainment atmosphere while increasing its appeal as an upscale residential area.
Those who own businesses that would be required to obtain entertainment club licenses also have an interest in the safety of their businesses and clientele. A city licensing system that would give them an added incentive to pursue that goal could be a step in the right direction for everyone.