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Businesses, City Officials to Work Together on Liquor Ordinance

A meeting next week between officials and business owners will offer a chance for concerns to be aired before the final reading on the Feb. 20 council meeting.

Port Washington business owners and city officials will meet next week to continue discussing an ordinance that would require both a business and security plan from applicants hoping to open an alcohol-related business in Port.

Port Washington Main Street Executive Director Sara Grover attended a Common Council meeting on Tuesday to speak on behalf of many of the city's business owners during a public hearing.

While Grover came with suggestions regarding details in the ordinance, she also said business owners were interested in having a more interactive role in rewriting the law.

"The interaction between businesses and city is what they're looking for," Grover said referring to business owners. "To really mold and craft a really good ordinance ... (and) we're still in a phase where that could take place."

Barney Bannon, who owns the building of the former Foxys tavern where a bar was recently denied a permit to operate, said he was concerned the ordinance is currently set up too loosely, leaving much of the law up to the interpretation of city officials — giving them the ability to pick and choose their enforcement.

"If you pass (this ordinance as it is), you could shut everyone down in the next 6 months," Bannon said. "I'm not questioning anyone's motives here … but you’re creating uncertainty … everybody in business knows uncertainty is a bad thing."

Ald. Jim Vollmar agreed that the ordinance needed to be reworked, to be shortened and more specifically focused on the business and security plan, "so that we can get the final draft to be an ordinance that is proactive for business and supports the chief in his enforecement duties," he said.

City Administrator Mark Grams said the officials and business owners are tentatively set to meet on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the ordinance. Grams still expects to have a final reading of the ordinance at the council's next meeting, during which time they will take a vote. The meeting starts at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 20 at City Hall.

Business owners concerned with certain details

The ordinance details requirements for license applicants looking to open a new business, including:

  • submission of a business plan describing items such as hours of operation
  • type of music or entertainment planned
  • type of food
  • potential negative impacts on the surrounding neighborhood
  • how the business will handle these issues.

A security plan agreed to after meeting with Port Washington Police Chief Kevin Hingiss, including ideas such as trained security staff, cameras on the premises and limits on patrons in the buildings is also required of new businesses in the ordinance.

Some of the ordinance changes would also have an impact on current business owners when they renew each year, including building inspections to be sure the establishment complies with sanitary regulations and other codes and ordinances.

Much of the concern was regarding the requirement for security cameras.

"A new business coming in does face a lot of start up costs to begin with," Grover said. "(A camera) is an extra cost … and could possibly deter a business."

Hingiss said he did some research regarding the cost of a camera system: installing cameras both indoors and outdoors would run a business about $1,500; if just purchasing indoor cameras, a business owner might be able to purchase equipment for about $300 because they would not need to worry about equipment suitable for winter weather.

"Most of the businesses that have liquor licenses have cameras already," he said. "Some of the reason that I believe cameras are important ... number one, for the bars itself … it prevents employee theft, false accusations against the taverns or the bars … (and they) can prevent burglaries, other thefts — and basically just protects patrons and the owners."

But business owners were quick to point out that cameras don't always deter petty theft or catch a crime in action — and can actually end up being a liability to the business.

Maria Kiesow of Pasta Shoppe said the restaurant has security cameras inside the building but have still had theft among employees — and it's not always detectable on the cameras.

"Cameras I don't think are always the answer," she said.

Cathy Wilger, director of sales at Holiday Inn, said a hotel within the company was sued because of a crime that happened, and was caught on camera — but that employees didn't see take place.

"It is a liability to the business, too, to have cameras in their establishments," she said, "and I just want you to be aware that that can happen."

Kathy February 12, 2013 at 02:41 AM
Hingiis is Police Chief and now a business consultant? business (a bar) should hire trained Security? Yes, because all local bars in town can afford to pay some staff $12-20/hr. Quite frankly if I am walking into a small town bar and seeing security staff, I'm leaving. I don't feel safe, I'm thinking this place has had problems. Security Cams? Oh like the certain gas station in town who's owners wife would watch all day and call to scream at employees if she saw something? Cams don't catch everything and are an added expense. Did the city pay Hiingis a business consultation fee? He's one the boys ain't he? As I always say " If I was offered 2 million to open a business and the only condition was it had to be in Port, I'd walk away."
Terry February 12, 2013 at 10:07 AM
I think we in this country get ourselves into trouble when we object to things that make sense. Camera's in bars make sense. They protect the bar as much as assist the police. Many insurance companies are even requiring them now. Paid security, that I think is an overreach. Working cameras should have been required long ago.
Kathy February 12, 2013 at 10:56 AM
Makes sense to whom? You ever own a bar? Work in the hospitality industry period? How does a camera help? With unruly patrons? A good bartender knows how to curve situations. With theft from bartenders? A well seasoned bartender knows how to beat that as well. A camera to record a robbery? If it is well placed and the robbers don't know it is there. In Texas any patron entering a place that alcohol is served has their State License scanned and has to purchase a "membership" to drink in any establishment. The time and date as well as purchases are recorded. Any issues the police know whom to track down. Of course things vary from town to town but not once did I ever see unruly patrons in four years, and I was in metro Dallas area. Is that the answer for Port or WI? Perhaps in the future. Cameras are just a band-aid. I have not been in a bar in Port in years. Why? I worked at one downtown in the 90's. I refused to serve a patron who was very drunk. The owner must have needed the 80 cents pretty bad because he turned around and served the woman a tap beer. Isolated incident? NO - SAW IT HAPPEN OFTEN. Like I stated, cameras are a band-aid. I do not feel a city, township or village has any right requiring a business plan from a potential business owner to obtain any license. What are their qualifications to judge any business plan? Who is all viewing and will they adhere to confidentiality?
Terry February 12, 2013 at 02:56 PM
Ahhh... so only those who have worked in the industry can voice an opinion on it. Have you ever worked in law enforcement? If not how can you be critical of Hingiss's approach to this? It's a logical fallacy that is frequently used to shore up weak positions. But, if you want an industry opinion, how about the insurance companies that insure these bars. Most give discounts for having a good video system, and many even require it. They do that because it protects them and the bars from lawsuits. From the bars prospective, if they are operating as they should, it protects them from allegations of overserving, and refutes claims that their staff or bouncers acted inappropriately. From law enforcements prospective, it provides evidence and assistance in identifying and addressing problem customers and fights. It's a cost effective, proven method of providing advantage to both sides. And while I agree with you that the city has handled this poorly, I am not willing to follow you all the way to them having no say in a business plan or operations. Does the city have to allow a strip club? How about a adult toy store or head shop? Of course they should have some say.
Kathy February 13, 2013 at 01:53 AM
@ Terry Was not suggesting that only those who work in the industry can voice an opinion. Do you call a plumber though when the lights go out? Back the train up here. AM I to understand that because of one location having issues at one time that now ALL like establishments are under a microscope? I can agree with the points you made about benefits of a camera BUT I do not agree about anyone not vested in my business telling me how to run it.

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