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Aldermen listen to bars’ plans to improve downtown nightlife

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2012 7:09 a.m. CDT

ST. CHARLES – Aldermen commended liquor license holders Monday on their plans to improve downtown nightlife.

“I was a big skeptic,” 2nd Ward Alderwoman Rita Payleitner told the attorney representing about a dozen license holders. “I have to say, you and your group have certainly earned your time here.”

Last month, aldermen in committee unanimously endorsed Mayor Don DeWitte’s request to reduce liquor license hours for bars and restaurants from 2 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily in an effort to curb overserving.

The City Council, however, tabled the decision three weeks ago, when business owners packed the chambers and had attorney Russ Whitaker speak on their behalf. Whitaker urged the city to work with the bars and restaurants before imposing new hours.

Monday, he and St. Charles Police Chief Jim Lamkin presented the Government Services Committee with a two-page proposal that would establish a voluntary tavern association. The group would serve as a conduit between members and the city to create a safe and healthy business climate downtown.

The association would publish a set of rules to be posted at entrances of each member establishment. Rules would include a 1:20 a.m. last call; no re-entry after 1:20 a.m.; a 1:40 a.m. last drink served time; a strict 2 a.m. closing time; and a no fighting policy.

Other suggestions included creating a banned list and requiring association members to stamp patrons’ hands after 9 p.m. The design would be unique to each establishment.

Whitaker thanked the chief, mayor and city administrator for the fruitful discussion, calling the proposal “certainly a work in progress” but “good steps forward.”

Aldermen questioned and commended aspects of the proposal.

Many said they wanted 100 percent participation from downtown establishments and statistics on items such as fights and public intoxication to measure the effectiveness of the changes.

Fifth Ward Alderwoman Maureen Lewis noted many of her constituents would rather the bars close at 1 a.m. than 2 a.m.

The committee unanimously agreed to table the decision about a 1 a.m. closing to give time for the ideas to be implemented. An update is expected to be given Nov. 26 with final action Jan. 28.

“I think it’s going to take a lot of effort to do what you say you’re going to do here,” Lewis said.

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