last night's license commission meeting was a civil affair, and though i'll mention a few minor ironies, i felt, being part of it, that the overall process was fair, and the outcome just. if you're just reading about it now, the readers digest version is that the commission declined to second commissioner akashian's motion to enact the city-council-proposed changes to liquor and entertainment licensing that would have rolled back serving and entertainment hours and placed a good number of further requirements on bar owners.
at first blush, and likely as politics will want to make it sound, the commission is stonewalling citizen and city council consensus that additional rules are needed to reduce, as the superintendent of police likes to entitle it, "downtown disorder", which includes mayhem, assault, bloody battery, vandalism and other crimes. the deeper reasons the motion was not seconded include the imperfection of the proposal, and the significant burden those rules would place upon establishments that do not, under the current rules in place, have any difficulty in running a safe and trouble-free business. as a downtown resident, and vocal advocate for better enforcement, i agree with the commission, the bar owners and employees who spoke against the proposal, and many if not most downtown residents that penalizing responsible business, and, as several speakers last night phrased it, "painting with too broad a brush", is not the answer.
people may note that i spoke in the portion of the evening reserved for those "in favor" of the regulation, but i hope that my comments were not misunderstood. the crowning irony of the proceedings in my humble opinion was commissioner bayliss' repeated remarks later on, admonishing everyone in the room that stricter enforcement of existing rules, laws and regulations was the answer, even while he refused to accept my own firm suggestion at the start that the license commission needs to be the prominent part of that increase in enforcement. (i say "refuse to accept", because he found it necessary to defensively respond to my points even as i was in the process of making them, to answer, among other things, that the license commission has "never had a ruling overturned by the ABCC". (though commission weicker was able to correct him that they had, indeed, been overturned once). my response, in addition to asking for the courtesy to be allowed to finish my points, was that failure to find enforcement opportunities to the complete limit of those allowed by ABCC oversight was part of the problem, and if you aren't getting to where some efforts are overturned, you are not assured of having pressed your enforcement privilege to its proper limit. (yes, there is a cost to having rulings overturned, but here i am willing to suggest the price in terms of legal support and time is worth the advantage in reduced 2am mayhem, but, hey, that's just one man's opinion, right?) i agree wholeheartedly that the proposed regulations are too broad and to onerous to be workable, and very much unfair to responsible owners. my point is that if we simply enforce those regulations that are currently in place, we would not be here finding it necessary to discuss stricter ones. clearly, if we aren't enforcing the rules, the answer can't possibly be more rules.
anyway, the applause at the meeting was all in favor of declining the new regulations, and clearly the scope of the new rules are, in their entirety, ham-handedly onerous and pointlessly burdensome to owners of licensed establishments. however, in their detail they contain many useful and obvious improvements to our current scheme, and commissioners were not hesitant to say so in candid conversation afterward.
my disappointment? though the commission correctly did the right thing and declined to act on the city council proposal as it was made verbatim, they did not do the right thing (yet) by moving and acting upon those portions of the suggestions that they felt right. i further stand by my pointed remarks that they need to be more strict and energetic in their (to the extent of their legal powers) response to any and all violations. no more "gee, we know you screwed up last year on the terms of your special permit and kept the neighborhood up until all hours, but here's your new one". no more "yeah, that's too bad that your staff once again has been caught serving underage drinkers, but don't sweat it, here's a toothless warning". no more "the cops and the patrons and the residents all need to do better, but we're doing just fine, thank you very much". we ALL need to do better. a lot of scrutiny was placed on the impact increased law enforcement has likely been having on the crime stats. but no meaningful appreciation was made for the extreme nature of the personal injuries that continue to occur downtown as a result of overserving. heads are being pounded into pavement. yeah, not as often as people are urinating on the churches. but one life-threatening injury every few weeks is TOO MANY. let's ALL do better.
i, personally, love to see the stats high, and the police tolerance minimal. the suggestion for police to hold perpetrators and pursue driving license revocation for those caught attempting to pass invalid identification isn't a bad one. but refusing to acknowledge that the license commission can, indeed, also do a larger part in amping up enforcement is leaving the offer of such suggestion less compelling. imagine if you are the police, and everybody else is stepping up their efforts. i believe you will be compelled to do more. (and, let's be honest, the police are already doing a lot and deserve commendation for it).
the license commission point that establishments paying for their own details should not be punished when those details catch wrongdoing is a fair one. (those are where a large number of the crime stats originate, and commissioner weicker was insistent to point out that request made in february for the police to provide analysis of the breakdown of where the reports originate has remained unanswered). but, again, the license commission is not doing their whole part here, and the righteousness of such a point needs to be reinforced with leadership in bringing irresponsible owners to task for their irresponsibility when it is brought before them. as i said, no more "gee, we know you screwed up last year on the terms of your special permit and kept the neighborhood up until all hours, but here's your new one". no more "yeah, that's too bad that your staff once again has been caught serving underage drinkers, but don't sweat it, here's a toothless warning". no more "the cops and the patrons and the residents all need to do better, but we're doing just fine, thank you very much".
do the right thing.
a good suggestion for all of us.
here's to looking forward to license commissioners raising a motion at their next meeting to adopt several of the proposed provisions. i'm patient enough to wait for their next meeting, though i suppose ax-grinders might want to make that sound foot-draggingly irresponsible. it's something that deserves to be done right, so i, for one, have no trouble with time being taken to do so. but doing the right thing is, indeed required.
let's do it.