St. Charles aldermen near breaking point with downtown taverns
St. Charles aldermen warned downtown tavern owners Monday night they are not impressed with the early efforts of a new Tavern Association to clean up drunken behavior in the city.
All but two of the taverns downtown formed and joined the association in response to aldermen contemplating earlier closing hours for taverns. Aldermen reasoned earlier closing times would cut down on recurring problems with police dealing with intoxicated bar patrons. But they agreed to let taverns try to police themselves, on a trial basis, via the association.
Downtown tavern owner Steve Baginski told aldermen Monday association members now have clearly posted signage in their establishments about last call. They've also created hand stamps unique to each tavern so police can identify which establishment may have overserved someone they are called out to deal with. Legal notice is now also going out to an unidentified number of patrons tavern owners placed on a new banned list. Once the legal notice of the ban is received, anyone on the list who tries to enter a downtown tavern can be charged with criminal trespassing.
"They are making changes," Baginski told aldermen. "They are making efforts to come to the city and give them what they want. Change is coming slowly."
Too slowly for most aldermen. Several of them pointed to another incident at a downtown tavern within just the past week as well as the two taverns just cited for liquor license violations. Alderman Cliff Carrignan said he also called the police about a man he saw downtown who appeared so intoxicated he was about to fall onto Main Street. Carrignan urged association members to either step up the training of their staff or start firing servers who provide alcohol to patrons at a problematic level.
Baginski said he would consider that idea. But reassurances weren't what Alderman William Turner wanted to hear. He publicly stated Monday night that he thinks the association is already a failure.
"It actually is getting worse in my view," Turner said. "I hope this just isn't a facade to say we're doing something. I really think this whole thing is a sham."
The rest of the aldermen on the city council will decide in January if they agree with Turner. Baginski said he and other downtown tavern owners will do everything they can to regain the trust of city officials.
"We're very serious about changing that perception of us that we're serving too much," Baginski said.
Alderman Jim Martin said that perception is an unfortunate reality every time he looks at the most recent weekend police activity report.
"I had hoped when I looked at that report it would be blank," Martin said. "it's not blank. You've got until January."
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