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."