Editorial: Keep clamps on rowdy downtown behavior

A fatal crash into a nearby picturesque quarry. A fight smack dab in the middle of the main thoroughfare resulting in police using a Taser on one of the combatants.

Unfortunately for Naperville's downtown, these are not isolated incidents. And the city council may be ready to take some action to quell the disturbances that mar an otherwise successful suburban entertainment experience.

It's clear something needs to be done, and we look forward to a balanced and transparent discussion at the Aug. 19 city council meeting.

"We've done a number of things to encourage restaurants to self-regulate, and that's the way they would prefer to go," said council member Judith Brodhead in a Sunday story by Daily Herald staff writer Marie Wilson. "To a large extent, it's been successful. But if we are starting to see fights as a regular event on the weekends, clearly something more is needed."

Added council member Joseph McElroy: "We want and we have a vibrant downtown. But the challenge is to strike a balance between a vibrant downtown and a rowdy downtown."

Reduced hours, he said, could be the answer. McElroy is pushing for closing times to be moved from 2 a.m. to 1 a.m. or midnight on the weekends. Midnight is currently the closing time for weekdays. Others say a half-hour earlier is more reasonable. Still others say the hours make no difference.

"I'm not sure that closing the bars earlier is the answer," said Mayor George Pradel who also serves as the village liquor commissioner.

Some bar owners agree with Pradel but they also say there should be stricter enforcement of current regulations.

The downtown businesses and city worked together two years ago when a stabbing at one establishment highlighted the issue. Any further tightening of those regulations could affect the bottom line for those businesses.

But residents have a right to a downtown that is safe and trouble free. We expect both the city council and the businesses in town to keep that in mind as they work to minimize the troubles that can come when a mostly young, mostly drunk crowd fills the area late at night.

The issues at hand in Naperville are not unique. Many suburbs have worked to make their downtowns as vibrant as Naperville's over the years and have had to work through similar problems.

In St. Charles, city leaders have made the standard closing time to be midnight and require bars to buy permits to remain open one or two hours later. That seems like a good way to monitor specific establishments, rewarding those without problems and restricting those that can't control their patrons.

"We want them to be successful. We want them to do well," said St. Charles Mayor Ray Rogina. "But we will not tolerate chaos, and we're not going to tolerate childish behavior by individuals who come there for the purpose of getting drunk."

Well said, Mayor Rogina. Naperville and other communities should heed that advice.

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