Members of Janesville’s Alcohol License Advisory Committee agreed not to pursue a demerit system for liquor licensees, saying they want flexibility in holding licensees accountable for offenses that occur on their premises.
Tuesday, the committee indefinitely tabled discussion on a demerit system that would track when liquor licensees violate laws, ordinances or conditions of their liquor licenses.
Chairman Barry Badertscher said the process that led to a recent decision to suspend The Back Bar’s liquor license proves the current system gives the committee flexibility to take action when incidents occur.
An agreement last week between Police Chief Dave Moore and the owners of The Back Bar, 1901 Beloit Ave., calls for a one-month suspension of the bar’s liquor license.
It was forged a week after a four-hour meeting where lawyers for the bar and the police department presented witnesses and evidence in a November shots-fired incident at the bar.
Moore believed the incident warranted revocation or suspension of The Back Bar’s license, so he brought the incident to the committee for consideration.
A demerit system would have given the police and committee less flexibility in determining punitive action, Badertscher said.
Under Appleton’s demerit system, The Back Bar would not have collected enough demerits for a hearing, said Dave Godek, city clerk-treasurer.
If the bar had gotten enough demerits, a hearing would have been scheduled, but the bar’s license could only be suspended, not revoked, Godek said.
In most demerit systems, a hearing must take place if an establishment hits a threshold number of violations, he said.
The Janesville Police Department spent $15,000 on outside legal fees in connection with The Back Bar’s suspension, Godek said.
He said a demerit system likely would require more hearings, leading to higher costs.
Badertscher said he does not like the idea of spending city money if it can be avoided.
Committee member Kevin Riley said spending money does not concern him as much as the lack of flexibility a demerit system would have.
Riley said he likes being able to assess different situations as a committee and give leeway to establishments that are new or willing to fix mistakes.
Committee member Mark Bumpus said a demerit system has advantages, such as giving the committee the ability to monitor incidents that occur at an establishment over time and allowing establishments to clear their records with corrective action.
Bumpus said he likes seeing lists of actionable offenses from peer cities. He said he’d like to see the city educate establishments about things that could become concerns for the police or committee.
“It never hurts to educate,” Badertscher said.