Liquor license holders may be required to go to tavern meetings to avoid losing their liquor licenses if Laramie’s Ad Hoc Alcohol Committee moves a potential recommendation to Laramie City Council.
Laramie’s Ad Hoc Alcohol committee — consisting of city officials, law enforcement officials, local business owners and representatives from the University of Wyoming — discussed ideas to better educate the public about responsible drinking measures during its regular meeting Monday. One of the ideas discussed heavily was encouraging more tavern owners to become involved with community outreach potentially through mandatory tavern meetings.
Councilman Joe Shumway, vice chair for the committee, asked if the city was still having tavern meetings, which provided things like additional TIPS training and information about programs meant to reduce drunk driving. The local tavern owners said the meetings stopped because of one major reason.
“Attendance was the main issue,” said Gregory Grisham, manager of Wyoming Rib & Chop House. “I got sent by my bosses because they didn’t want to go. I’d say maybe a dozen people was the most I ever saw in a meeting, and lots of times it was just three or four people.”
Grisham said the tavern owners were even offered points to show up to the meeting with lackluster results. Laramie Police Chief Dale Stalder said those points could have offset potential sanctions by law enforcement if a liquor license holder failed compliance checks done twice a year, but people still weren’t motivated to show up to the quarterly meetings.
“They had to go to one meeting and it could offset sanctions for even one failure on a compliance check,” Stalder said. “It became worthless to keep holding them because nobody was showing up. … A lot of times you’ve got tavern owners or license holders who don’t live here, and they’ve got people managing their establishments who are working, and it’s hard for them to find time. You’ve got a lot of license holders who don’t have stake in community here.”
However, Stalder added time might help, since after a few years of implementation, many tavern owners are now utilizing other point incentives implemented recently.
“We are getting a lot more participation by license holders on the incentives for reporting possible fake IDs to the police department at the time people are showing up with them,” Stalder said. “We’ve got a lot of establishments who call us on a regular basis now. So, it took three years for that to really grab hold, but we’re seeing that happen now.”
Stalder added license holders are “generally very responsible” with a 92 percent compliance rate.
Rajeev Patel, Laramie Main Street Alliance board member and co-owner of Speedgoat, said he felt the tavern meetings would be good to re-implement.
“When we would go to those tavern meetings, they were actually very helpful,” Patel said. “It was really nice to talk to the officer that was there to give them scenarios with our staff of things that have happened, and the officer would tell us the right way to deal with it. Just to have that communication open was really valuable. I’d like to see them come back.”
Grisham agreed, saying meeting even just twice a year would be beneficial. Stalder said City Council could make the meetings mandatory if it changed city ordinance, and Patel said he thought them being mandatory was the only way people would take them seriously.
“I don’t know why people don’t show up to this; it’s beyond me,” Patel said. “But I think if you make a requirement, that would be the action to get them there. … I see nothing wrong with making something like that mandatory for license holders to go to.”
City Attorney Bob Southard said changing the ordinance would be legal, even if Council made loss of liquor license one of the potential consequences for missing the tavern meetings.
Since the liquor license renewals are sent out in January, Laramie City Clerk Nancy Bartholomew said it wouldn’t be possible for City Council to change the ordinance for next year, but it would be a possibility for 2020.
Despite the issues the committee is focusing on, including community outreach and DUI prevention, Bartholomew said she heard positive things about Laramie when she talked to Kelly Hunt with the Wyoming Liquor Division.
“He said between [prevention management organizations], the tavern meetings and he pointed out the A-Team here in Laramie — he said he thinks our community is one of best communities in the state as far as trying to do preventative measures ahead of time,” Bartholomew said.
The Ad Hoc Alcohol Committee is still compiling and discussing potential suggestions for City Council to act on, including making tavern meetings a requirement for liquor license holders. The committee said they would discuss it again further as they get closer to making their recommendation.
Ad Hoc Alcohol Committee meetings are open to the public.