Target the trouble-makers in downtown Naperville

Naperville police officers Frank Tonkavich (left) and Bill Skirpan standby outside Rizzo's as patrons line up for entry in the early morning hours of Saturday, June 8, 2013. Officers Tonkavich and Skirpan, along with others in the department's school resource officer program, have shifted to the downtown business district for the summer to increase the late-night police presence. | Jeff Cagle~for Sun-Times Media
Naperville police officers Frank Tonkavich (left) and Bill Skirpan standby outside Rizzo's as patrons line up for entry in the early morning hours of Saturday, June 8, 2013. Officers Tonkavich and Skirpan, along with others in the department's school resource officer program, have shifted to the downtown business district for the summer to increase the late-night police presence. | Jeff Cagle~for Sun-Times Media

We’ve got trouble, right here in river city, with a capital “T” and that rhymes with “B” and that stands for booze. Yes, while we may be high-functioning folks, and retain our look of respectability during the day, late at night, when the more temperate are tucked safely in bed, we have a drinking problem.

I don’t know whether the City Council has ever considered solving that problem by starting a boys band, as Harold Hill did in “The Music Man,” but I think they’ve discussed every other possibility. Soon, they will pass a modest ordinance aimed at the heaviest drinkers. If that doesn’t work, they will probably take more dramatic action.

The fact is that Naperville has become a big bar town, not the only one but, on some nights, one of the rowdiest. That bothers a lot of folks who worry about the town’s reputation, its cherished brand. And they think that nothing says “Naperville” these days like a crowd of young men milling around in front of the police, starting fights, urinating on buildings, and throwing up in the parking garages.

They want it to stop, the sooner the better, and are ramping up the political pressure on the city to take action, like closing the bars earlier. The trouble is that most people believe that would do very little good and could do a lot of financial harm. The goose doesn’t have to be sober to lay the golden egg. Those young bar-goers spend a boatload of cash, and generate a lot of tax revenue. Nobody involved in the business wants that to stop.

Besides, the trouble isn’t being caused by traditional tavern goers, the young men and women who enjoy flirting in bars because the people look better and better as the night wears on, or the guys who like to have boisterous arguments over things about which they know next to nothing. I would argue that the great majority of the people who go to bars, those who go there to ease their social inhibitions or just to relax and meet new people, aren’t causing anyone any trouble.

But every year we are in fact seeing more problem drunks, aggressive, belligerent young men and, yes, women who apparently come here just to get as drunk as possible by closing time. These aren’t regular drinkers. They want to get wasted, to have their lips go numb, to stay on the edge of being out of control. When Mark Twain wrote “Sometimes too much to drink is barely enough,” he meant it to be funny. In real life, it’s anything but.

The problem drunks are the ones spoiling the fun. They start the fights. And when they get near a car, they’re the accident going some place to happen, the tragedy getting ready to unfold. We keep acting as though it’s too much booze turning regular bar patrons into 2 a.m. Mr. Hydes, but it’s not.

While forcing the bars to do what they should already be doing, and which some are in fact doing, things like limiting shots before closing and preventing last-minute bar hopping, will help, I think the problem drunks will somehow find a way to do their mischief anyway. They may simply drink more beforehand.

So if the new ordinance doesn’t do the trick, I think we should try what many casinos have found to be effective. Blacklisting. If some guy starts a fight, is found sitting in the middle of Chicago Avenue, becomes disorderly, threatens a tavern employee, or finds some other ingenious way to be a first-class jerk, his picture and identification should go on a blacklist to which all the bars adhere. That will accomplish what fines and even arrests will not.

It’s easy and popular to blame the liquor, but if the temperance movement has shown us anything, it is that the demon isn’t the rum itself, it’s the guy guzzling it.

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4 Comments

  • Jenny

    Llayne, most of us who live don't consider Naperville a "college town". I'm guessing a review of money spent in the downtown would prove to you that the majority of the revenue is from families. And to Bill, while blacklisting may sound like a good idea, I don't think we've had too many "repeats" of offenders, the latest including the man who knocked a woman to the ground when she rejected his advances. I'm all for a cover charge. Use the money to pay for the extra police, etc., we have to pay for the bars. If some of the bars close, oh well. Some store or restaurant will have a turn in that space. No worries. If you're worried about loss of tax revenue from the booze sales, increase our taxes by $5 dollars a year. That ought to cover it.

    2014-09-05 08:42:44 | Reply
  • Mike B

    What will work:::Enforce a dress code -- Dress shoes for men and no T-shirtsCharge a cover -- A lot of the trouble comes from out of town a simple $10 entry fee will discourage them from driving to Naperville. It will also limit bar hopping so the bartenders and bouncers can monitor consumption better.Encourage designated sober drivers -- Have the bars give incentives to designated drivers, they can go as far as giving them a wristband for free non-alcoholic drinks, maybe a free appetizer as well. DD's will be sober and will help watch their friends alcohol intake.What wont work::Limiting drink size --Beer under 20oz: only one bar downtown sells oversize bottles (22oz) so instead of buying one people will just buy 2 12oz bottles, or just finish one and buy another.--Wine no more than 5oz, the vast majority of late night patrons are not drinking wine.--Shots, the standard shot is 1.5oz limiting shots to under 2oz of liquor really wont do anything. It might limit fufu shots so those people will just buy something differentClosing bars earlier--On a Friday / Saturday night, when people have the mindset to party they will, if a bar closes early they will drive to a late night bar (ex. Galloway bar in hillside) or will throw a house party. No matter what people who want to get drunk will just find another way. Or they will just party earlier instead of arriving in downtown at 10pm they will arrive at 9pm.SOURCE::I'm 25 years old, I used to frequent downtown Naperville bars 3-5 nights a week from the ages 20-24 (yes 20)

    2014-09-03 12:59:05 | Reply
  • Daniel S.

    Too bad you are not exactly correct; the demon is not the person nor the rum, but the combination of the two; both are usually fine on their own.

    2014-08-27 08:49:21 | Reply
  • L Layne

    Yes, Naperville is a college town. Maybe other college towns could be contacted to see how they handle such problems. Perhaps going out of state even say Wisconsin, or Michigan.

    2014-08-27 08:20:10 | Reply



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