Bartender applicant denied due to social hosting
At last night’s Common Council meeting, the alderpersons made it very clear that they think that a person found social hosting should not be allowed to serve alcohol in a bar or tavern. Eric Kramer had applied for a bartender’s license. Even though he did not appear at the Licensing & Permit Committee meeting, that committee approved him for a license, but added on 40 demerit points. (Once a bartender has accumulated 100 demerit points, he/she must appear before the committee for a review.) However, at the Common Council meeting, there was much discussion on this issue, and the council voted to deny the license by a vote of 14 to 3. (Alderpersons G. John Ruffolo, Anthony Kennedy, and Steve Bostrom voted against the denial).
Alderperson Jesse Downing felt very strongly about the denial. He originally made a motion to deny based on material police record. Later, he spoke of the severity of the infraction of hosting a party for minors. “We passed the social hosting ordinance last year. And, now we’re going to issue him a license after he’s hosted a party where he was caught serving minors? I will not support this no matter what,” he said.
Alderperson Rocco LaMacchia agreed. “As one of the co-sponsors of the social host ordinance, I agree with Alderperson Downing in denying the application. He willingly and knowingly knew what he was doing in serving minors. Can we issue him 80 demerit points?”
Alderperson G. John Ruffolo agreed with everyone who spoke before him, but he was questioning the legal staff as to whether or not the Council was double penalizing him. “Are we doubling the 20 demerit points? I think that social hosting should carry with it more severe penalties,” Ruffolo stated. He was trying to ensure that the Council was treating people equally and fairly.
Chapter 10 of the general ordinances which deals with liquor sales, there are scheduled offenses which spell out the addition of demerit points to an applicant’s license. But, as Alderperson Michael Orth pointed out, the social hosting ordinance was enacted after the re-write of Chapter 10. Therefore, it was not spelled out in the general ordinances chapter. It is, then, a non-scheduled offense. “We have the discretion and the ability to deny the license,” said Orth. Some thought that social hosting should be added to the list with a much higher demerit point penalty. Others called for the review of the entire schedule to ensure fairness.
Alderperson Daniel Prozanski brought up the issue that, at the last meeting, the Council approved the license request for an applicant that had 200 demerit points. This applicant appeared in front of the Licensing & Permit Committee, presented the appropriate documentation, and pled her case. “It’s our prerogative. We saw a change in the person. So, even though she had exceeded the 100-point limit, we granted her the license. I agree social hosting should carry with it more weight when it comes to demerit points. I think we should tidy up the demerit points contained in the ordinance.”
Mayor Keith Bosman asked if it was appropriate to count 20 demerit points for each underage person at the party, but city attorney Ed Antaramian said that it was not. Newly elected Alderperson Scott Gordon stated that he was in favor of denial. “I’m the parent of a teenage son. There were three citations issued at the party, plus one obstructing citation. I agree with Alderperson Ruffolo. I think we should increase the penalties for social hosting.”
Downing read from Chapter 125 of the state’s code on liquor laws. “Each municipality may refuse to issue a license, based on using good judgment. We are not using good judgment; we are using great judgment,” he said.
Alderperson Patrick Juliana made the point that the applicant was not present at the meeting to defend himself. “He’s a young man. Maybe he doesn’t realize the depth of what he did. He should appear before the committee. Because he didn’t, he gets denied. Now, he’ll have to wait one year before he can re-apply.”
Alderperson Steve Bostrom stated that he doesn’t disagree. “But, I am troubled. We are going down a slippery slope. Certain offenses are more severe, but the penalties are not outlined. I see one other applicant with an underage drinking violation. Another with an operating while intoxicated (OWI) violation. I like the idea of having all of them appear before the committee to explain themselves.” Bostrom made a motion to give him the opportunity to appear again. He moved to refer the item back to the Licensing & Permit Committee. The roll call vote for that motion failed 8 to 9.
Newly elected Alderperson Kevin Mathewson stated that he was going to vote for the denial. “We have to look at the severity of what was done to earn points. It’s odd that three had OWI’s. Some got 60 points, some got 80 points. We need to re-evaluate the point system. I urge my colleagues to vote no.”
Alderperson Tod Ohnstad said that he recalled that the Council voted unanimously to enact the social host ordinance last year (in April). “We need to issue the 20 point assessment for social hosting until we have clarification. I am voting for the deferral.”
Orth stated that we need consistency. “I am voting against it. I vote to deny the license. We have the discretion to do so. The person didn’t come to the meetings. It must not be that serious to him.” Prozanski stated that he felt the same as Orth. “But,” he said, “where was the outrage on the 200-point person? I’m voting no on the deferral,” Prozanski said.
Kennedy stated that the deferral was in order because the denial was based on a material police record, and he felt that that was the wrong reason. “We did a lot of work with the Concerned Citizens Coalition to get to this point. I support the deferral back to the Licensing & Permit Committee.”
Juliana said, “There is consistency. We deferred the 200-point person. The applicant came before the committee, and it was reviewed. We addressed the issues. The 200 points was changed to 90. We do have discretion. I will not support giving alcohol to minors. He was a no-show. I am against the deferral.”
The Council voted to deny by a vote of 14 to 3.