- Draftordinance from City of Lawrence Legal Services
- Mayorseeks stricter gun law (02-22-07)
- Cityasks state for advice on bar safety (01-30-07)
- Closingtime (01-27-07)
- Planwould require new bars to get permits (01-20-07)
- A callfor bar safety (12-27-06)
- Troublingtrend hits home (12-25-06)
- 2arrested downtown for gun violations (12-16-06)
City commissioners soon will start deciding how heavy of a hammer they want to use when it comes to building a safer downtown.
At their Tuesday meeting, commissioners will consider an ordinance that would create mandatory jail time for people caught illegally carrying a gun within 200 feet of a drinking establishment. Commissioners also will discuss - although they're not expected to take any action - creating a system that would require "entertainment venues" to get a city license to operate.
The two proposals - especially the new licensing system - are expected to create some weighty issues for city commissioners.
"There are a lot of bar owners who have worked hard to correct any problems, but there clearly are some who have not done so," City Commissioner Sue Hack said. "The tough part of this is, do we punish everybody because a few people aren't doing what they are supposed to do?"
Both the gun ordinance and the licensing system would apply citywide, but the ideas have emerged largely because of concerns about gun-related violence in downtown Lawrence.
This week's discussion on an entertainment venue licensing system is expected to be the most detailed yet for the City Commission.
According to a staff memo prepared by city attorneys, the city has the legal authority to craft a broad ordinance. It could allow the city to revoke an entertainment license for any of these issues:
¢ Noise problems that affect the neighborhood.
¢ An accumulation of trash or litter in the surrounding area.
¢ An increase in criminal activity within the vicinity of the bar or club by patrons who are leaving or entering the establishment.
The possible regulations have sparked concern among some nightclub owners who fear a new licensing system would hinder many of the venues that have made downtown a regional drawing card.
"I'm a firm believer that downtown has been revitalized because there are thousands of people in downtown every night visiting the venues," said Nick Carroll, owner of the Replay Lounge, 946 Mass., and Jackpot Saloon and Music Hall, 943 Mass. "I think this could really hurt that because it seems like this just gives the city the ability to shut down any business that it wants to shut down. It sounds like the rules are so vague that they could be interpreted any way they want to interpret them."
City Manager David Corliss, though, has said the idea is worth looking at, in part, because the city has little ability to influence whether the state revokes a bar's liquor license.
A revocation of the proposed entertainment license would not stop a bar from selling liquor. Instead it would stop it from providing entertainment services. That could mean that a bar would be allowed to stay open but could not have music, dancing, films or other similar activities.
The idea to create mandatory jail time for people who illegally have a weapon within 200 feet of a bar is further along in the process.
Mayor Mike Amyx proposed the idea last month. The new ordinance would require a judge to sentence a first-time offender to 30 days in jail, a second-time offender to 90 days in jail and a third-time offender to 180 days. Fines also would be increased to a minimum of $250 to a maximum of $2,500.
"I think this might be a good deterrent," Amyx said. "It might cause people to stop and think before bringing a weapon around a bar."
Hack also said she supported the idea for mandatory jail time. Both Amyx and Hack said they thought the ordinance would necessitate the need for new signs in the downtown that warn people against bringing weapons near bars.
Commissioners will meet at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.