Policy change adopted by council

Liquor licensing policy approved on first reading

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The Craig City Council will take a more active interest in the liquor licenses it is authorized to oversee and approved an ordinance Tuesday night that outlined exactly how it would do that.

Members unanimously approved a much-discussed ordinance that sets standards for dealing with liquor or municipal law violations committed by a business or its employees.

The policy was developed, council members said, to improve communications between themselves and liquor license holders following several instances where businesses whose employees were cited for serving alcohol to minors did not attend the hearing to renew their liquor licenses. Council members with questions about how the situation had been remedied were becoming more and more frustrated that no one attended to answer their questions.

The ordinance requires a hearing to take place immediately following the report of a violation -- which could include serving alcohol to minors, over serving, excessive fights or excessive complaints. The license holder will be required to attend that hearing and is entitled to present evidence and testimony regarding the violation.

City officials met with the 22 liquor license holders in Craig to discuss the ordinance and its intent.

"Most license holders understood what we're doing and why and that it's in our authority to do this but it just hasn't been done in the past," City Manager Jim Ferree said.

Jim Deihl, owner of Carelli's in Craig, attended Tuesday's meeting and said as a liquor license holder, he was OK with the provisions in the ordinance and understood its intent.

The council will, in most cases, decide immediately following the hearing whether any penalties will be imposed. An original version of the ordinance gave the council 30 days to render a decision but, after a meeting with liquor license holders, changed the provision to seven days and to call a special meeting if necessary to make that decision.

"They felt that when you're dealing with someone's livelihood, it's worth calling a special meeting," Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta said.

The council has the authority to suspend a liquor license for up to 14 days, levy a fine in lieu of suspension or revoke the license -- none of which Councilor Bill Johnston said are intended punishments by the adoption of the ordinance.

The ordinance will not go into effect until it is passed on a second reading, which is scheduled for Oct. 28.

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, Ext. 210 or by e-mail at ccurrie@craigdailypress.com.

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