Quota system ends for retail liquor licenses

Gas Station Selling LiquorAt Monday night’s Common Council meeting, several changes were approved to Chapter 10 of the code of general ordinances for the city of Kenosha entitled, “Alcohol Beverages.”  These changes were sponsored by Alderperson Jesse Downing, chairman of the Licensing & Permit Committee, and co-sponsored by Alderpersons Patrick Juliana, Rocco LaMacchia, and Curt Wilson.  The changes included:

  • Eliminating the self-imposed quota, which was previously set at one license for every 5,000 residents, allowing for 20 retail liquor licenses in the city.  All of these licenses are in use at the present time.
  • A new, separate system where two license violations in one year will result in a 60-day suspension, and three violations in one year will result in license revocation.

The retail liquor licenses will still fall under the point-based demerit system, where 100 demerit points over two years will result in a review of the license in front of the Licensing & Permit Committee that could result in suspension or revocation.  Any applicant for a Class A license will still need to apply to the city, contact the alderperson of the district, and be approved by the Common Council.

Alderman David Bogdala offered two amendments to the changes.  Both had to do with the number of demerit points.  The number of demerit points currently in place for being convicted of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated is 40 points.  Bogdala didn’t think that was enough.  This is a misdemeanor.  The second conviction takes the individual to circuit court.  Bogdala thought that “we need to send a more powerful message, that driving while intoxicated (DWI’s) will not be tolerated in the city.”  He wanted it moved to 80 points.  Matt Knight corrected Bogdala.  The first offense is 20 points under the current ordinance.  The second offense within a 10-year period or greater than a second offense is 40 points.  Bogdala said he’s tired of reading in the paper about individuals getting two, three, four chances.  “This is just my opinion, but I think it should be it after a conviction.”

The other amendment had to do with social hosting.  Currently, this municipal citation is at 100 points.  Bogdala also wanted to change it to 80 points.  Accumulating 100 points under the system results in an individual coming before the Licensing & Permit Commitee for a revocation hearing.

Alderperson Daniel Prozanski asked Bogdala if he was proposing to lessen the number of points for social hosting from 100 to 80, and Bogdala said yes.  Prozanski then asked Police Chief John Morrissey his feelings on that.  Morrissey said that he thought that 80 points on both was fair and reasonable.  “Giving a person 80 points put them on a short leash.  Automatic revocation is a strict penalty.  Now, a second offense on social hosting.  I don’t know.  The first is an awful strong penalty.”

Knight pointed out to the Council that other sections of the ordinance required changing to make them consistent as far as the point accumulations.  Prozanski stated that, if they were the same, they could be put on a future agenda.  He didn’t think that a motion could be made here.  Knight said that it would be difficult to make a motion here.  It could be done with a separate amendment for other sections.  Prozanski suggested that they go back and clean up other sections.

Alderperson Scott Gordon stated that he was in favor of increasing the points for the DWI, but not in favor of decreasing the points for social hosting.  “There is no excuse.”  He suggested splitting the two amendments and voting on them individually.  Bogdala then withdrew his motion and agreed to the two individual ones.  All approved increasing the points for the DWI from 40 to 80.

Alderperson Steve Bostrom stated that he agreed with Gordon.  “Hosters should be punished severely.”  Gordon urged the Council to leave the points at 100.  “No second chance should be given to someone who willingly/knowingly provides alcohol.  This is one area where I am going to have to disagree with the chief.  We need to send a clear message to our adults/children.”

Alderperson Michael Orth agreed.  “This Council always has discretion.  We can hear the issues on a case-by-case basis.  We need to consistently be strong, but we can use our discretion.  Sometimes people come in front of us as changed persons.”

Downing urged his colleagues not to change the points.  “Kenosha was the leader in this.  The state then followed.  I won’t support any change.  I want it to stay at 100 points.”

Bostrom said, “I agree that we need to send a strong message.  But, we need to look at the bigger picture.  So, we’re saying that drunk drivers deserve a second chance, but the person who makes a mistake doesn’t.  We have a major alcohol problem in the city.  And, here we are, wanting to get rid of the quota system.  If you were truly concerned, we wouldn’t be voting for this.  We would not be tolerating a second time.  We need to be fair to all.”

Bogdala then said, “If it were up to me, the first violation of a DWI would be 100 points.  But, we have to compare everything here.  Once a person gets to 80 points in a year, the clerk sends a letter to appear in front of the Licensing & Permit Committee.  Failure to appear results in another 20 points, totaling 100 points.  Eighty (80) points is more appropriate.  Revocation hearings are costly.  It sets a better precedent.”

Orth said that he realizes that mistakes are made when young.  “A 21-year-old provides liquor to a 20-year-old.  But, adults/parents providing beer parties at their homes?  I’m a high school teacher.  I know this goes on.  We cannot allow that to continue in the community.  You heard it.  We have a culture of alcohol in this city.  It’s appalling.  We need to stand firm.  The Licensing & Permit Committee can use its discretion.  This needs to be stopped, and it can’t be acceptable.”

Bostrom said that he doesn’t condone parents providing for their underage children.  “We must be consistent in tracking the demerit points.  If you truly believe, don’t open the doors to allow each establishment to sell alcohol.”  He stated that he supported Bogdala’s motion.

Juliana stated, “If we still had prohibition, we wouldn’t be talking about it.  A licensed bartender serving an underage person gets 20 points.  But, social hosting?  Yes, I believe social hosting is wrong.  It deserves a severe penalty.  But, let’s look at it realistically.  Social hosting is 100 points, that a revocation.  A licensed bartender can do it four times before he has to come before the committee.  Five times equals 100 points and come before the committee.  I commend both sides.  No difference here now.  It doesn’t say a licensed establishment.  I think social hosting should stay at 100 pints.  Look at other points that govern serving underage people.  This is a tracking system, not a punishment.  It’s our option to review.  It’s a tough decision.”

Alderperson Kevin Mathewson said that he was glad that Juliana brought up the points between the DWI and social hosting.  “I’m supporting 80 points for social hosting.  It’s the right thing to do.  It does not warrant revocation.”

Gordon said that he agreed with Juliana.  He had no problem with bumping up the points for a bartender who serves minors.  “But, a second chance for social hosting?  No.  Keep it at 100 points.”

The roll call vote on the amendment to reduce the social hosting to 80 points failed by a vote of 7 to 9.  Those voting against were Alderpersons Eric Haugaard, LaMacchia, Juliana, Keith Rosenberg, Gordon, Curt Wilson, Prozanski, Orth, and Downing.

Then, the discussion turned toward the bartenders serving underage.  Bogdala thought that the points should double for Chapter 125 violations.  Orth wanted to know what other violations were listed in Chapter 125 (the state statutes).  Antaramian replied that there were such violations as loitering, having fruit flies in drinks, etc.  Orth’s point was that there were more violations than just serving to underage.  “Moving it to a higher category is overkill,” he said.

Downing said that they have been reviewing Chapter 10 all summer long.  One alderperson showed up at the meetings besides those on the committee.  “That is where the true work of this should have been done.  That is where this should have all been ironed out.”

Prozanski asked Downing if he though this would harm businesses, and Downing’s reply was that he thought it would.  Prozanski said, “We have all heard that we live in a culture of alcohol.  All of us are opposed to this for minors.  But, legal alcohol consumption is legal.  We are not in the prohibition era, as Juliana said.”

Juliana said that all of Chapter 125 and Chapter 10 needs to be reviewed.  He stated that he would back future amendments.  “It won’t hurt business,” he said.

The roll call vote on the second amendment also failed by a vote of 5 to 11.  Those voting in the affirmative were Alderpersons Mathewson, Anthony Kennedy, Gordon, Bostrom, and Bogdala.

On the ordinance change itself, the vote was 13 to 3.  It passed.  Those voting against were Kennedy, Bostrom, and Orth.

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