An ad hoc committee created by the Laramie City Council last year is set to consider several measures at its next meeting that aim to combat alcohol violations at bars and restaurants in the city.
Among the issues likely to be brought up for a vote include tougher sanctions for bars that fail police compliance checks, additional fines for minors caught buying alcohol, incentives for the purchase of ID scanners by bars, and mandatory “tavern meetings.”
Those meetings would provide bars with training on how to prevent over-serving and drunk driving.
The ad hoc alcohol committee began its work in October and is required to submit a report to city council in February.
After 12 of Laramie’s 61 alcohol license holders failed compliance checks in early December, University of Wyoming Vice President for Student Affairs Sean Blackburn suggested there needs to be greater sanctions for non-compliant businesses.
Based on a point system, Laramie levels administrative sanctions for businesses that are caught violating alcohol-related ordinances or state statutes.
Selling alcohol to a minor earns a business 25 points and a $250 fine.
If a business earns 75 points in a 12-month period, it faces temporary suspensions of its liquor license.
Because LPD only does two compliance checks on a business each year, a bar could fail every compliance check and never face a suspension of its license.
At Monday’s ad hoc meeting, O’Dwyer’s co-owner Deirdre O’Dwyer noted that DUIs and other alcohol citations have been declining in the city in recent years.
“It sounds like things are going in the right direction. Based on everything I’m hearing, I’m actually putting out on the table … that I don’t see the need for change,” she said.
At O’Dwyer’s suggestion, the committee will, however, consider options for implementing greater penalties for underage drinkers.
Current fines are set by state statute, but city attorney Bob Southard said it would be possible for the city council to create an additional fine.
Albany County Sheriff David O’Malley said he’s impressed by the effort bars put into not serving minors. He said he’d support greater penalties for violating customers.
“You make them responsible for jeopardizing your employees and jeopardizing your license,” he said.
Blackburn also suggested Monday that the committee consider incentives for the purchase of ID scanners by businesses.
Scanners, Laramie police chief Dale Stalder said, are “not an end-all cure-all, but it’s a great way to detect IDs.”
In the past, the city has incentivized attendance of bar owners at “tavern meetings,” which provide certain alcohol training. However, the incentives were not significant enough to maintain adequate attendance and were canceled. The ad hoc committee plans to consider mandatory meetings.
The committee’s next meeting is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Jan. 28 in the Laramie City Council chambers.