Naperville looking at 8 regulations to curb rowdy night life

Naperville is moving toward eight new regulations aimed at curtailing excessive downtown drinking and rowdy night life conditions that some say hurt the city's image.

“I don't think anybody here could deny this is detracting from the Naperville brand,” council member Robert Fieseler said about “the whole rowdiness thing.” “We can do something about that.”

Drawing from a liquor service best practices manual developed a year ago and recommendations the liquor commission made last week, the council asked for documents to be drawn that would restrict drink sizes, limit discounts on drinks, regulate shot sales, require additional training for security and prohibit entry to bars within one hour of closing time.

The council also asked staff members to research ID scanning technology with a goal of requiring bars to install it by May 1, 2015; to prepare a list of police statistics that should be analyzed as part of a review of night life activity; and to create a plan to train security personnel at bars in conjunction with the training program the police department already mandates for servers.

Council members said the measures should affect bars throughout Naperville — not just those in downtown — but none of the measures took effect immediately.

The regulations need to be brought to a final vote at another meeting. But council members and Mayor George Pradel, who is the city's liquor commissioner, were intent on taking action.

“The sentiment going forward is this is the time to act,” council member David Wentz said. “The problem in a nutshell is we're looking at economic development running into public safety, and I think that time and time again public safety will prevail.”

A month after two young men were killed in a crash that police say was caused by a drunken driver and two years after a Naperville teacher was stabbed to death in a downtown bar, Pradel said “we've waited too long” to act against downtown drunkenness.

“And maybe it's my fault,” Pradel said. “I'll take the blame for it.”

The eight regulations the council supported Tuesday do not include reductions in bar hours, which drew opposition from bar owners and the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce.

“Closing our establishments early will not fundamentally solve the problem of overconsumption,” chamber President and CEO Nicki Anderson wrote in a letter to council members.

The proposed regulations do not include an increase in the fee to receive a late-night permit. The liquor commission recommended raising the fee to $1,000 a year instead of $200, but council members voted down that idea.

The council did, however, reserve the right to further limit bars in the future if this round of regulations doesn't quiet things down. Council members said they could cut hours or require food to be served during all hours of operation if fights and public disturbances do not decrease.

Council members also said they want to look into term limits for liquor commissioners. There are not set limits now, as commissioners are appointed by the mayor to four-year terms. The thought is a new mayor could make new appointments, but Pradel has been Naperville's top elected leader for 20 years.

Council member Grant Wehrli urged Pradel to appoint new commissioners soon to fill two vacancies instead of waiting until May when a new mayor will be in office.

Pradel said the city council needs to lead bar owners toward increased safety by codifying additional rules.

“We need the council to be behind the (liquor) commission as we work together with all of our (bar) owners, all our establishments to make this city the best we possibly can and ward off the element that comes in after 11 o'clock that just wants to party,” Pradel said. “I don't want to be known as a party town and that's not going to happen if we can help it.”

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Proposed drinking regulations

Naperville City Council members proposed eight liquor regulations to help prevent fights and drunken driving in the city's downtown. Here are the proposals, which will be put to a vote at a later meeting:

1. Direct staff members to research ID scanner systems and write a report within 60 days toward the goal of having scanners installed by May 1, 2015.

2. Direct staff members to prepare a report about police statistics on downtown activity that should be analyzed using input from groups not limited to the Downtown Naperville Alliance, Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce, police and fire.

3. Direct staff members to create a plan within 90 days to train security personnel at bars in conjunction with the Beverage Alcoholic Sellers and Servers Education Training already required for bartenders and owners.

4. Prohibit entry into bars within one hour of closing.

5. Require all security personnel to go through Beverage Alcoholic Sellers and Servers Education Training.

6. Prohibit the sale of shots within one hour of closing; prohibit the announcement of a “last call for shots”; prevent the solicitation of pre-poured shots and set a maximum single-serving size for shots of two ounces.

7. Forbid establishments from offering specials that discount a drink to less than half of its original price.

8. Reduce the maximum single serving size of beer to 20 ounces from 24.

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