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St. Charles aldermen ready to change rules for taverns

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St. Charles aldermen ready to change rules for taverns

City laws must be changed to give officials more ways to tighten the grip on problematic downtown taverns, St. Charles aldermen agreed Monday night. The question is how long must aldermen wait to bulk up the city code.

The decision came after a report by the police department showed calls to downtown bars for assault/battery, disorderly conduct, public indecency and intoxicated subjects all increased during the 2012-13 review period compared to the previous two years.While police officials said the higher numbers are due in large part to police paying more attention to the problems at the taverns, aldermen didn't fully buy into the idea that the situation is improving.

Aldermen Cliff Carrignan and William Turner both pointed to the increase in police incidents involving intoxicated subjects as the most telling point that some bar owners haven't tackled the root cause of all the other police incidents — overserved patrons.

"This overserving, I don't know what's going on with that, but it looks like they're dancing around the real problem," Turner said.

Police Chief Jim Lamkin agreed overserving continues to be a problem that requires more diligence by bar owners and staffers. But aldermen weren't content with the idea that police will continue to press the issue.

Instead, Alderman Ray Rogina called for exploration of several changes to the city's laws that govern liquor licenses. Although state law doesn't define what a tavern is, Rogina said the city must differentiate between establishments that primarily serve food and businesses that mostly serve alcohol in the licensing process.

That will allow the alderman a better understanding of what kind of business they are approving when they issue a liquor license, Rogina said.

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