The City of Platteville, UW–Platteville and Second Street bar-owners are considering a long list of ways to reduce the problems Second Street bar patrons create.
Common Council President Mike Dalecki listed some of those problems: “Broken glass, public urination that’s becoming a problem … the problem is we have people downtown who are running the bars that are creating intoxicated people, and the costs are borne by everyone, and the benefits are going to the owners of the bars.”
Two of the owners of the bars — Dale Jacobs, owner of Schoolgirlz, Brothers and Camaraderie, and Brian Roesch, owner of Boondocks — met with the Common Council during a Feb. 26 work session.
One item on the list presented at the meeting concerns the disconnect between the city’s efforts to cite people with alcohol-related offenses, and how many charges actually end up with fines paid.
“When these citations are processed, the city plea-deals or the judge simply dismisses one or more of the citations,” said City Manager Larry Bierke in a memo to the Common Council. “The City of Platteville could refuse plea deals. The City could also determine that the expense of a municipal court is worth it to see the possibility of greater enforcement.”
“We’ve seen that judges will informally set what they feel is their own appropriate sentence,” said Police Chief Doug McKinley, who said his officers will issue as many citations as the officer feels is appropriate, but Grant County circuit judges will dismiss some of those citations.
McKinley said the Fresh Start program, in which a first-offense underage drinking charge is dismissed, is being extended to second-offense citations, “which to my way of thinking kind of defeats the purpose.”
McKinley said most underage drinking citations are written in Platteville; “Boscobel, Lancaster, they don’t write a lot of underage drinking tickets.”
One proposal would create a new ordinance prohibiting public intoxication, including a preliminary breath test “to support officer observations,” wrote Bierke. “This ordinance may be useful for the many instances in which officers deal with time-consuming detox calls and intoxicated individuals who need ‘supervision.’”
“We’d kind of be on the cutting edge if we went that route, and it’d very much have to be behavior-driven,” said McKinley, who added that public intoxication is an offense in Dubuque, but not in Wisconsin. McKinley said alcohol-related misbehavior “undermines the quality of life in Platteville.”
“When it’s known that it’s going through, it makes a little bit more of a statement,” said Roesch.
Another proposal being discussed is the closing of Second Street to vehicle traffic Friday and Saturday nights, along with exploring “transportation options for people leaving Second Street in an effort to curb episodes of vandalism,” wrote Bierke.
“This is the only college town in America that doesn’t have a 24-hour taxi service,” said Jacobs.
“We don’t have a 24-hour taxi service because we’d have to subsidize it,” said Dalecki.
“You’re running at the wrong hours,” said Jacobs. “Second Street starts at 10.”
Roesch proposed banning parking on Second Street between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.
Another proposal would establish standards for when the city’s License Committee can suspend or revoke liquor licenses, along with a required review of police reports at license renewal time.
“Are there certain bars that we’re seeing more problems with?” asked at-large Ald. Steve Becker.
The city and bar owners also are considering different ways to check IDs. One proposal would ask UW–Platteville police to assist to prevent underage people from leaving through a bar’s back door when city police are checking IDs from the front of a bar. Another proposal would require that bars install electronic recording devices for ID-checking.
The list of potential changes also includes:
• Increasing fines for a number of alcohol-related ordinance violations, including possession of a false ID, getting alcohol for minors, knowingly allowing a minor to drink, open intoxicants, disorderly conduct, being underage on a licensed premise, and damaging or removing traffic signs.
• Including fine amounts in police reports detailing arrests for alcohol-related offenses.
• Getting bar owners to create a list of habitual alcohol offenders so that bar employees can prevent those people from entering their bars.
• Beginning a new Police Department task force using underage people to attempt to buy alcohol at bars, restaurants and stores. The task force would be in addition to the Grant County Sheriff’s Department’s twice-yearly underage-purchase attempts.
• Trying to discourage house parties.
• Requiring that bar employees attend a class on how to spot fake IDs, as well as twice-per-semester classes on how to deal with unruly bar patrons.
• Issuing citations for serving alcohol to an underage person, or for not checking IDs, to the business that sells alcohol and its employee, not just the business.
• Issuing citations to bars when an underage person is found in a bar, regardless of whether or not the person drank in the bar.
• Getting bar employees to prevent people from leaving bars with open intoxicants when bar patrons take cigarette breaks or otherwise leave the bar.
Aldermen met with UW–Platteville representatives Feb. 9, according to a Bierke memo. Bierke and McKinley met with Second Street bar owners after the Feb. 9 meeting.
The discussion between aldermen and the bar owners occasionally got contentious.
“I just want to get rid of the $100,000 it costs for the city to enforce Second Street,” said Dalecki.
“I don’t think there’s problems,” said Jacobs.
“$100,000 at the top is a problem,” said Dalecki, listing vandalism and public urination.
“That’s been going on for years,” said Jacobs.
District 3 Ald. Barb Daus asked “what kinds of actions you and your staff are taking to limit the numbers of overserved.”
“I felt that all bartenders should be held accountable, not only by us, but to have the Police Department come in and make sure bartenders aren’t drinking behind the bar,” said Jacobs.
When a proposal for extending shuttle service later in the night from campus was brought up, UW–Platteville Chancellor Dennis Shields said only “several hundred” out of the 3,300 students who live on campus are of legal drinking age.
“If we add to the hours we’re going to have to figure out some way to fund that,” said Shields.
“Some of the students are pushing back on paying for other students’ drinking habits,” said UW–Platteville Prof. Christina Curras.
Dalecki spoke to not just Jacobs and Roesch, but to other Second Street bar owners when he said, “You guys have got to sign up for this all the way. Otherwise we’re going to do things you’re not going to like.”