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Some aldermen unimpressed by St. Charles Tavern Association’s efforts

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013 6:51 a.m. CDT

ST. CHARLES – The St. Charles Tavern Association has not won over some aldermen in its efforts to curb alcohol-related issues in downtown.

Fourth Ward Aldermen Jo Krieger and Jim Martin, who consistently vote against liquor licenses, expressed doubts about the group’s effectiveness during an update Monday by association spokesman Steve Baginski and Police Chief Jim Lamkin.

“I don’t think the association or owners downtown have corrected the over-serving,” Martin said. “You’ve got a long way to go.”

Downtown bar owners joined forces in fall to reduce problems such as over-serving and fights after the City Council threatened to change closing time from 2 to 1 a.m. Mayor Don DeWitte proposed the reduction in hours after an August weekend that required police response to several downtown fights involving intoxicated people.

Changes have included setting last call at 1:20 a.m., posting signs warning patrons against fighting, banning troublemakers and communicating regularly with the police department, Baginski told the Government Services Committee.

While police still are called to the bars, Lamkin said, many calls are initiated by the establishments when they need help handling a customer.

“Overall, there’s a lot of improvement,” Lamkin said. “There’s always room for more improvement.”

Second Ward Alderman Cliff Carrignan agreed the association has made “good strides” but said statistics are key in measuring improvement.

“This summer’s going to be a pretty telltale sign,” he said.

Fifth Ward Alderman Maureen Lewis asked Baginski why the 2 a.m. closing is important to the bars.

“It’s a very busy hour,” said Baginski, noting younger customers generally don’t begin the night until 10:30 or 11 p.m.

Third Ward Alderman Ray Rogina acknowledged that assigning blame for certain incidents can be difficult because they might happen outside the realm of an establishment.

But, the mayoral candidate noted, “When no one’s culpable, everyone’s culpable.”

Rogina suggested making the 2 a.m. closing a privilege subject to annual review by the City Council and said he wants an ordinance outlining punishments for specific offenses.

“I think the liquor commissioner has too much latitude,” he said.

The committee is expected to discuss both issues at its meeting next month. Aldermen also requested to have data that night.

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