Although the Craig City Council will have its first draft for new liquor license violation procedures at tonight's meeting, a final decision is at least six weeks away.
If the council approves the draft for further discussion, then it would follow the normal process for city ordinances, City Manager Jim Ferree said.
First, there is an introduction, then first and second readings. Each would take place at subsequent council meetings, which are the second and fourth Tuesday of every month.
The council may amend the ordinance during any phase.
The draft procedures and penalties council members will view tonight are largely based on examples from other Colorado municipalities, officials said.
The council would like to set up an administrative hearing procedure much like one recently approved by the Steamboat Springs City Council.
An impartial hearing officer would deliberate on violations and hand down penalties with guidelines provided by the council. This would help maintain consistency, council members have said, instead of having liquor license holders facing different, term-limited councilors when law enforcement cites them with violations.
The city would like to find someone from outside Craig to ensure the position's objectivity, City Attorney Kenny Wohl said.
"Our judges might also handle the (minor in possession) cases, and there's a chance they could have advance notice of a violation before they hear a licensee's case," Wohl said. "It's not that that would bias our judges, you just want in all court cases to have somebody look at it with fresh eyes."
Ferree said Steamboat attorney Tammy Stewart was contacted for the position and expressed interest.
Stewart, a Democrat, announced her candidacy for 14th Judicial District Attorney on Monday at the Moffat County Courthouse.
She has 19 years of attorney experience, has been a prosecutor and a defense lawyer in Routt County and was one of two finalists for a local judge position in 2007.
Stewart is running against Elizabeth Oldham, Grand County chief deputy district attorney, who filed as a Republican.
Craig officials would have to find another candidate if Stewart wins the District Attorney election in November, Wohl said.
Penalty guidelines mostly reflect those of Thornton, which Wohl had the council view at its March 25 meeting.
The draft includes higher penalties for first offenders than the council handed down during a liquor license hearing March 4. At that hearing, the council deliberated on 10 cases of liquor license violations cited during the last wave of Craig Police Department compliance checks.
Compared to deferred suspensions issued then - where liquor license holders would not serve their suspension unless they were cited with another violation within six months - the draft rules recommend a 1- to 14-day license suspension for first offenders.
The penalties are not required, but are guidelines for a hearing officer to consider, Ferree said. That way, he added, the officer can include "mitigating or aggravating" factors when deciding on a penalty.
The Police Department approves of stiffening the penalties, Captain Jerry DeLong said.
"One of the main reasons we support this is because we see, not only in our community but throughout the nation, underage drinking is becoming more and more a serious problem," DeLong said. "If we can get everyone involved with liquor licenses to follow the law, we can focus on other means of preventing minors from obtaining alcohol."