PAWTUCKET – New escalating penalties for offenders and repeat offenders of the city’s rules on liquor service and closing times will hopefully set a new standard that everyone abides by, say City Council members.
The City Council, at a meeting tonight, Nov. 10, will consider a resolution setting the rules for establishments repeatedly caught serving alcohol after established closing times, cracking down on what has become a big problem especially in the downtown area.
Councilor Mike Araujo was the main author of the changes, modeling them after a resolution drafted some 20 years ago when the city was dealing with numerous liquor stores selling alcohol to minors.
Penalties are as follows:
• First offense – $500 fine and/or a two-day liquor license suspension;
• Second offense – $750 fine and/or a suspension of two to five days;
• Third or subsequent offense – $1,000 fine and no less than a five-day suspension or revocation of license.
He said it seems like every other meeting the City Council is now dealing with a new violation or more, and new guidelines will set a consistent expectation for establishments to know that if they violate it, there’s going to be a penalty, he said. He said bars and clubs continue to create a public safety issue while drawing heavily on limited police resources.
“We needed to put a stop to it, we needed to let establishments know that there will be penalties as we enforce the letter of the law,” he said.
He said he’s not sure whether the city has lost any of its cases upon appeal to the Department of Business Regulation because it doesn’t have firm standards.
In the past, said Araujo, penalties have largely been decided by the district council representative based on what they feel is appropriate. Each case is still unique, he said, and there is some wiggle room for discretion. He said the main idea here is “step discipline,” a process he’s had a lot of experience in as part of his day job.
The resolution states that the council believes that liquor licenses staying open beyond closing time, serving alcohol beyond when the last patrons are supposed to be out at 1:20 a.m., contributes to public noise, nuisance, crime and other disturbances.
It also mentions that the discretionary aspect of the rules is mindful of past rulings by the Department of Business Regulation.
“As a result, the Board of License Commissioners will not slavishly or mechanically follow this guideline, but, rather, will use its discretion and impose penalties consistent with the penalty guideline, yet warranted by the facts of a particular case.”