The Laramie City Council has taken the first steps toward implementing additional changes to city ordinance recommended by the Ad Hoc Alcohol Committee that convened this spring.
During its Tuesday meeting, the council unanimously passed the first reading of an ordinance that would require liquor license holders to attend two tavern meetings a year as part of their liquor license renewal application process or face a 25-point violation.
Per city code, license holders receive points for alcohol violations like serving to minors. A license holder that receives 75 points for violations in 12 months puts itself at risk of a temporary suspension of its liquor license.
Additionally, the new ordinance would require every person selling or controlling alcohol within an establishment to take part in a training program approved by the Wyoming Liquor Division within 90 days of starting employment.
Neither concept is new to city ordinance; currently, city code requires all managers, supervisors and license holders to complete training for serving alcohol.
The city currently offers free Training for Intervention Procedures, or TIPS, classes quarterly. There is online training available as well.
Additionally, tavern meetings were once a regular occurrence in the city until low attendance made them fade away.
Currently, city code awards a five-point credit for tavern owners who attend a meeting, but that portion of city code would be replaced with the 25-point fine.
The new ordinance would apply to all liquor license holders, including for retail liquor licenses and restaurant licenses.
Although he voted to approve the ordinance, councilman Brian Harrington said he wanted to be sure the meetings are structured in such a way that they’re beneficial to both tavern owners and law enforcement who attend.
“I’m just curious, at these tavern meetings how are we identifying what they should be talking about and sort of ensuring that’s the conversation?” Harrington asked. “If we’re mandating they’re there, I don’t want to just mandate that they all get together and have a beer twice a year.”
While city staff said the City Clerk’s office and the Laramie Police Department would likely be involved with implementing the tavern meetings to ensure attendance requirements are met, the discussion would be guided by participants.
“Writing the ordinance, we didn’t want to try to do four paragraphs on what these meetings have to be,” said City Attorney Bob Southard. “They might be very brief, they might be very long, but the police department would set them up, people show up and they discuss whatever the current issues the police have or the tavern owners have.”
Bartholomew said the city is not sure exactly where those meetings will be held yet.
Councilman Charles McKinney expressed concerns with whether the city is imposing regulations no one asked for; although the tavern owners who attended the ad hoc sessions expressed an interest in restarting the tavern meetings and additional staff training, just three of the full 62 licensee holders attended and gave consistent feedback.
Having worked as a bartender in the past, councilwoman Jessica Stalder noted alcohol serving training like the TIPS program “was incredibly helpful training that employees didn’t necessarily provide.”
“There’s a lot of things that might seem pretty intuitive about overserving or percentage of alcohol, stuff like that, but employers don’t always have the time to do that,” Stalder said. “This is a really good way to get that training to really cover themselves and make responsible decisions.”
Other council members also pointed out the importance of alcohol serving training, especially as many folks serving in Laramie are just barely over 21 years old themselves.
In the same meeting, the council also voted to unanimously approve a measure directing city staff to reconstitute the Ad Hoc Alcohol Committee in two years to measure outcomes of the different recommendations made, including the tavern meetings and the voluntary ID scanner program the city has underway with different licensee holders.
The committee consisted of stakeholders from city staff, the city council, law enforcement, license holders and the University of Wyoming.
Reconvening the committee was also a recommendation from the spring ad hoc committee.
Vice Mayor Pat Gabriel was absent for the meeting.
Ordinances much pass three readings before going into effect.