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Our View: Closing time proposal requires closer look

Published: Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

The latest proposal for how to curtail alcohol-fueled misbehavior in downtown St. Charles raises some concerns.

On Monday, the St. Charles Government Operations Committee approved a proposal that would make midnight the closing time for bars, with liquor license owners having the option to pay extra to remain open until 1 or 2 a.m. – the latest current closing times.

The proposal stipulates that a licensee with a base license renewal fee of $1,200 would be charged an additional $2,300 to stay open until 2 a.m.

The plan still needs to be addressed by the City Council, which should give serious thought to whether this proposal unfairly punishes establishments that have a low rate of late-night incidents. 

It’s perfectly reasonable for the city to scrutinize an establishment’s track record during the permitting process, and potentially impose punishments for businesses that are not conscientious about adhering to safety measures. But the model put forward this week seems to paint with a broad – and punitive – brush.

Making midnight the default closing time unless an establishment is willing to pony up is an eyebrow-raiser. While bumping up the 2 a.m. closing time has been a talking point in St. Charles this year, going from 2 a.m. to midnight – as opposed to 1 a.m. – seems like a radical step. 

It’s been well-documented that the popularity of the downtown St. Charles bar scene has its drawbacks, all too often leading to poor decisions that end up cited in the police blotter.

But addressing those issues in a business-friendly way should remain the priority.

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