City shouldn’t back down from downtown crackdown
By TIM WEST email@example.com November 17, 2012 10:56PM
Updated: December 19, 2012 12:53PM
Maybe there is some hope that the city can curb the late night bar fights, the occasional stabbing, and the other assorted problems that are making Naperville’s downtown late at night less hospitable than it ought to be.
Even though the slap on the wrist Mayor George Pradel as liquor commissioner gave BlackFinn American Saloon wasn’t nearly as hard as I would have liked to have seen it be, it was a step in the right direction.
To suspend only the late night portion of the bar’s liquor license (that from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m.) for seven days, with a reduction to three days if there were no further instances at that establishment over the weekend, seems pretty minor to me.
Yanking the entire license for that whole seven days, with no time off for good behavior and which would include Black Wednesday, the newly traditional “let’s get stinking drunk the night before Thanksgiving day” would have made more of an impression.
But at least the city is showing that it is willing to stick a tentative toe in the water approach to cracking down on the places whose patrons are causing the problems — as opposed to changing the liquor service hours for everyone, even those saloons that don’t have problems. I agree with councilmen Grant Wehrli and Doug Krause who complained that the penalty for BlackFinn was too light, but I guess if baby steps are called for, so be it.
I bring this up in the light of an email I got last week from the owner of one of Naperville’s restaurants that serves liquor. Bear in mind this is a restaurant, not a saloon, but the owner fears that the city may crack down on all of the license holders, not just the ones that deserve it.
The guy who sent this has a nice place with good food and tasty drinks. If there has ever been a problem there I don’t recall it.
His missive reads as follows:
“I agree with a lot of what you said in your article “Time to Crack Down on Downtown ‘Nightlife.’”
“I have had many similar conversations over the past couple years with friends and customers. In my opinion the city and the liquor commission have directly contributed to this problem over the years. My fear is with articles such as yours the city and the liquor commission will recommend and pass measures putting the expense, necessary or unnecessary, on ‘all’ downtown liquor license holders instead of going after the real problems.
“I would think there are several of us who hold liquor licenses who do not agree with these ‘nightcapades’ any more than you.”
Yes, I would agree that most of the downtown liquor license holders are responsible businessmen who can tell the difference between serving folks a couple of drinks, more often than not accompanied by a meal, and allowing their patrons to get a belly full of booze and then cause problems.
The problem is with a very few drinkers in a very few places, and it is to be hoped there are just a few of these folks who flat out can’t tell or don’t care about the difference between social drinking and drunk and disorderly.
It wouldn’t be fair for the city to bring its hobnailed boots down on everyone who has a liquor license, though government often becomes a proposition where the many are overly regulated because of the transgressions of a few.
There has got to be a balance between recognizing that while a safe downtown is necessary both for business owners and their clients, and also realizing that a lot of these restaurants and taverns are the entertainment meccas that bring people into the downtown in the first place.
The city does indeed need to clamp down, but on the guys who cause the problems, establishments and their rowdy clients as well, not on the ones who don’t.