Craig City Council discusses liquor license accountability

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Liquor license holders will have a new form of accountability if the Craig City Council approves an ordinance introduced at Tuesday night's meeting.

The council hopes to revamp the renewal process after employees of five businesses were cited last November for serving alcohol to minors. The citations were part of an undercover sting operations conducted by local law enforcement agencies and Prevention Coalition.

Earlier this year, Craig City Council members said they were disappointed that business owners did not attend the council meetings to discuss the renewal of their licenses.

Some business owners have said they have never been required to attend meetings regarding their liquor licenses.

In response, an ordinance was drafted that forces liquor license holders who have any violation to attend a hearing to show what actions that business is taking to prevent a similar violation from occurring again.

The ordinance allows the council flexibility in meting out punishment for the violation. As the local liquor licensing authority, the council can suspend a businesses' liquor license for up to 15 days or levy a fine in lieu of suspension.

"Because I think no two situations are alike, I think you need some flexibility," City Manager Jim Ferree said.

City Attorney Sherman Romney said state law outlines punishments local governments can enforce and recommended the ordinance refer to those laws instead of spelling out specific penalties.

"State law is referenced in the ordinance and that changes," Romney said. "Ordinances become obsolete when state laws change."

Factors the council will consider when contemplating penalties include:

  • Seriousness of the violation.
  • Corrective action taken by the licensee after the violation.
  • Prior violations and the effectiveness of the prior correction plan.
  • Whether the violation is part of a repeated course of conduct or is an isolated occurrence.
  • Likelihood of recurrence.
  • Length of time the license has been held.
  • Previous sanctions imposed against the licensee
  • Other factors making the situation with respect to the licensee or licensed premises unique.

Councilor Bill Johnston asked that liquor license holders have a chance to review the ordinance before the council takes any action on it.

"I would like to have some review from the people who have to live with it," he said.

Lennie Gillam, owner of Stockmen's Liquor, was the only liquor license holder to attend Tuesday's meeting. He asked how long previous violations will be on a business' record, saying it was a business with a high turnover rate.

"I'm finding employees don't think about it the way you do," he said. "They move on to a different job. It's my livelihood."

Johnston said the intent of the ordinance is not to put anyone out of business but to ensure there is some accountability for violations among liquor license holders.

The ordinance must be approved on two more readings to go into effect. It will be presented for its first reading at the council's regular meeting Sept. 23.

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

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