Sunday, November 30, 2014

Notes from the League, part 2

workshop:  A Spirited Discussion - Municipalities and State ABC Laws

The Plainfield City Council is the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission for local liquor establishments.  The Council has struggled over the years to effectively regulate the local bars that are selling to minors and overselling drinks to customers who've had a few too many. This year the Council scored some enforcement victories and for all the complaints against this City Council, this is an area of governance where the Council has done better than any year in the last two decades. But more enforcement is needed.  Also, the lack of available liquor licenses for new restaurants is a barrier to downtown and South Avenue development.  So I was definitely going to this session.

Presenters were in agreement that the state law, created after Prohibition ended, needs to be replaced.  But there are competing interests, especially from the well funded Restaurant trade association, represented by high powered lobbyists.  They want to protect the investments made by current liquor license holders.  That means that change will come slowly and step by step rather than by comprehensive reform legislation.

A good place to start is with redevelopment areas.  Most urban municipalities are maxed out with licenses because of the state imposed per capita license formula.  Plainfield is one of these.  Since we want a walkable downtown with a variety of restaurants, we need a few new licenses for our downtown. I am referring to licenses for restaurants, not liquor stores. This will take state legislation.  I plan to write a resolution in support of such legislation.  Reform of outdated laws will stimulate investment and development in Plainfield.

On the enforcement front, there is hope for the future in Plainfield.  The Council has had a few enforcement advocates over the last 10 years - yours truly being one of them.  So is Bill Reid, although Bill's voting hasn't always been in line with his public statements urging for enforcement action. I called for several bars to be required to hire off duty police officers for weekend and late night duty.  My requests were approved by the Council.  The reason we scored enforcement victories in 2014 is that the Council has been able to get the cooperation of the police department.  With police enforcement that is well documented, Council actions against Alcoholic Beverage violators  will stand up under appeal.  So thank you to Police Director Carl Riley, his officers and Mayor Mapp  and City Council for pulling all the pieces of the puzzle together.

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