Casper City Council Passes Amended Liquor License Ordinance
The Casper City Council on Tuesday passed on second reading an amended liquor license ordinance that eliminated a section about restaurants and bars over-serving customers that critics said could have been interpreted to allow police to enter private homes.
Instead, the ordinance now requires all employees of restaurants and bars to take a serving training course within 90 days of being hired, according to the amendment proposed by council member Steve Freel.
But several council members noted that this ordinance would affect volunteers who serve alcohol at charity events, and the Council needs to find out how other cities apply such rules to nonprofit organizations.
The newer version may have mollified early critics because no residents spoke during the public hearing.
The ordinance started as an effort to align the Casper municipal code with state law, and get a handle on a rising number of alcohol-related crimes including driving while intoxicated and public intoxication, according to concerns raised by Police Chief Keith McPheeters. It also would eliminate the ineffective demerit system for restaurants and bars.
But the over-serving language resulted in a public backlash, with some residents calling it government overreach that could let police enter homes where residents are hosting parties.
So Council tabled the ordinance after its first reading on Feb. 5 to revise the language at the Feb. 12 work session, specifically for the TIPS -- "Training for Intervention ProcedureS" -- education, which includes training on how to identify people who are intoxicated and methods of ending their service of alcohol to them.
The amendments on Tuesday also included a requirement that bars and restaurants maintain records available to police showing employees have been trained, and a graduated fine schedule for violations. After a certain number of violations, an establishment's liquor license will be suspended for seven days.
Council member Mike Huber, a former Natrona County Circuit Court judge, objected to having specific amounts for fines, saying that takes away from a judge's discretion.
But Kenneth Bates and others disagreed, saying the bar and restaurant owners know what's coming if they violate the ordinance. Like traffic tickets, the fines should not be left up to a judge's discretion, council members said.
Council member Khrystyn Lutz raised an even more problematic matter in that charities often have fundraising events during which volunteers serve alcoholic beverages.
Lutz asked if the ordinance would require volunteers to take TIPS training.
Huber said volunteers for charities serve beer at the Casper Events Center, and the ordinance would eliminate that source of revenue for them.
But council member Chris Walsh said the ordinance is intended to reduce all over-serving, regardless who is serving, by requiring the training.
Freel added that TIPS training is available online and takes only four hours to complete.
Lutz and Bates recommended learning what cities with similar ordinances require for volunteers who serve alcohol, and that Council should look at this at its next work session on Feb. 26.