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updated: 9/24/2012 11:26 PM

St. Charles officials agree to let taverns police themselves

St. Charles bar owners get 90 days to fix problems

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  • St. Charles aldermen agreed to a 90-day experiment Monday night where downtown taverns will police themselves in an effort to reduce rising crime stats related to rowdy behavior when bars close.

       St. Charles aldermen agreed to a 90-day experiment Monday night where downtown taverns will police themselves in an effort to reduce rising crime stats related to rowdy behavior when bars close.
    James Fuller | Staff Photographer

 
 

Taverns in downtown St. Charles will have the chance to police themselves for the next 90 days after threats by city officials to close them down earlier if problems with fighting, intoxication and public urination don't subside.

Tavern owners feared losing business to Geneva if forced to close earlier. So they banded together, hired an attorney, and came up with a plan to use business-level peer pressure to crack down on the unruly behavior.

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There are 15 different bar owners in St. Charles. Twelve of them agreed to form a voluntary Tavern Association. The association will have regular meetings with city police to discuss any problem behaviors.

It will also impose its own, internal fines for any behavior that draws the attention of police.

Taverns will also create mandatory handstamping at entry to allow tracking of who is overserving patrons. Last call will be 1:20 a.m. and limited to one drink per person.

There will also be no re-entry to taverns after 1:20 a.m. By 1:40 a.m., all drinks are to be consumed. Taverns will also create a blacklist of patrons.

Anyone banned from three downtown taverns that are members of the association is automatically banned from all St. Charles taverns in the association. Bars will continue to close at 2 a.m.

That's if the self-policing experiment works. One more tavern owner is expected to join the association. Two other owners have not responded to the effort.

Russ Whitaker, the attorney for 11 of the downtown taverns, said he believes the association will be as much of a help to the downtown bars as it is to the city in curbing increased crime when taverns close.

"The city is not a direct stakeholder in the organization, but they certainly have a stake in the success of the organization," Whitaker said.

Mayor Don DeWitte also serves as the city's liquor commissioner. DeWitte was a skeptic of the association until he heard the details Monday night. He now supports the plan.

However, DeWitte said he'll come down with a heavy hand if the association experiment fails. If that happens, DeWitte promised to codify the proposed association rules into city ordinances.

On top of that, police officials said they will propose increases to the fines for public drunkenness, fighting and public urination.

The 90-day experiment will terminate at the end of this year. Aldermen will receive a progress report in late November.

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