The Platteville Common Council appears to be nearing agreement on a group of measures to reduce the problems Second Street bar patrons create.
The measures that got general agreement at the council’s March 12 meeting include increasing scrutiny of Platteville bars’ liquor licenses, issuing citations to bar employees who serve underaged drinkers, and creating a new ordinance prohibiting public intoxication.
The list of measures does not, as of now, include increasing fines for alcohol-related ordinance violations, after City Attorney Brian McGraw told the council that the city would get very little additional money from increasing fines.
The council first held a work session Feb. 26 during which City Manager Larry Bierke released a list of 17 proposals developed in meetings with city administration and Second Street bar owners.
The six areas that got general consensus from aldermen include:
• Requiring bars to have electronic recording devices to check IDs.
• Requiring the city Licensing Committee to review police reports of incidents occurring at businesses with liquor licenses. The committee could create standards for when to suspend or revoke a liquor license.
• Issuing underage-drinking citations to the business and the employee who serves the underage-drinker.
• Blockading part of Second Street on Friday and Saturday nights.
• Selecting a location where taxis and designated-driver vans can pick up and drop off those visiting Second Street.
• Establishing an ordinance prohibiting public intoxication.
Police Chief Doug McKinley said the Police Department would begin a campaign to publicize whatever the council decides to do, to create awareness of the penalties for getting caught for a drinking-age offense. McKinley said police also would organize classes for bar employees on how to detect fake IDs and manage unruly bar customers.
One option that appeared to fade in interest was increasing fines, in part because the city would get little additional fine revenue.
City ordinances set the minimum penalty for a violation of Chapter 36, covering alcoholic beverages, at $100. The actual fine paid by someone who is fined $100 is $263.50, after a $26 penalty surcharge, $23 jail and crime lab drug surcharge, $89.50 Justice Information System Surcharge/Court Support Service Surcharge, and $25 circuit court costs.
State law establishes a total fine of $263.50 for a first-offense underage drinking possession ticket, but a fine of $452.50 for a first-offense ticket for procuring or attempting to procure alcohol.
McGraw described a typical scenario of what police and Grant County Circuit Court deals with from Platteville: “If you have a bad night downtown, and you get what I call the big three — they get an underage on a licensed premise, underage consumption, and let’s say they present a false ID or they run. The total of that is about $1,000.”
However, a first- or second-offense underage consumption ticket can be dismissed by successful completion of the First Start program, although the program costs more than $150 to enroll. That and dismissing the third charge leaves a ticket for being underage on a licensed premise, a $452 ticket.
“The end result is a $400 to $700 range for that experience,” said McGraw. “We seem to get a lot of first-time customers.”
“I don’t think there’s a whole lot of thought that goes into these situations,” said McKinley.
At-large Ald. Steve Becker asked how many “multiple violators” police dealt with. McKinley said four or five could be termed as “habitual.”
Some of the other 10 proposals included creating a new Police Department task force to make underage alcohol purchases on its own, efforts to curb house parties, publishing fines as part of police reports for underage drinking tickets, creating a list of habitual offenders to be shared among bars, having UW–Platteville police assist during bar ID checks, requiring that bar employees take classes on how to spot fake IDs, and ticketing bars and their employees for serving to people with fake or no IDs.