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updated: 8/21/2012 12:59 PM

Complaints prompt St. Charles to look at closing bars earlier

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In response to complaints about patrons leaving downtown St. Charles bars and getting into drunken clashes with each other and police officers, Mayor Don DeWitte proposed closing the establishments earlier Monday night.

DeWitte, who also serves as the city's liquor commissioner, proposed reducing the hours of operation for downtown bars by one hour.

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That would mean all bars would have to close by 1 a.m., seven nights a week. The current closing time is 2 a.m.

DeWitte told a committee of aldermen that events during the first weekend of August inspired his proposal, though a general problem with what he says is bars over-serving patrons has been on his mind for some time.

During the first weekend in August, police were called to downtown bars for reports of disturbances in or outside the bars, DeWitte said, and four of the calls resulted in police reports or arrests. The problematic parties already had dispersed by the time police arrived in another five instances.

DeWitte said in each instance, one or more people who had been served too much alcohol appeared to be the root cause.

"I do know there are some establishments who do a great job of monitoring alcohol consumption," DeWitte said. "But a few bad apples spoil the whole bushel."

DeWitte and two aldermen met with all the liquor license holders back in May for an annual review of any issues.

DeWitte said he told the licensees at the time that overconsumption was a problem that needed to be corrected, and he hoped the businesses would take it upon themselves to remedy the issue.

"It appears that they have not heeded our requests," DeWitte said. "I believe that the city has a responsibility to maintain a safe and friendly environment. I believe that environment is threatened."

Aldermen won't cast a final yes or no on the issue until the next full city council meeting next month.

However, Aldermen Jo Krieger and Ray Rogina both spoke in favor of the plan. No aldermen expressed any objections.

City officials originally bumped the closing hours to 2 a.m. in response to a request by liquor license holders who said the later closing time was needed to compete with taverns in neighboring Geneva. DeWitte said his meeting in May with the licensees revealed only one or two establishments believed the later closing time made a real impact on their business.

When asked if suspending the liquor licenses of problematic establishments would be a simpler solution, DeWitte said it is virtually impossible to pinpoint which locations are most responsible for over-serving because bar patrons often visit several bars in one evening.

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