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No suspension but fine increases for liquor license violations

The Dickinson City Commission decided to remove liquor license suspension from the punishment for violating the city's liquor ordinance after the second and subsequent times on Tuesday evening at its third special liquor license meeting.

The Dickinson City Commission hosted its third liquor license meeting to discuss amending the ordinance Tuesday evening. Photo by Ellie Potter/ The Dickinson Press
The Dickinson City Commission hosted its third liquor license meeting to discuss amending the ordinance Tuesday evening. Photo by Ellie Potter/ The Dickinson Press

The Dickinson City Commission decided to remove liquor license suspension from the punishment for violating the city's liquor ordinance after the second and subsequent times on Tuesday evening at its third special liquor license meeting.

Previously, when a business failed a compliance check or was found to be in violation of the city's liquor ordinance, the site would be shut down on a certain day or for a determined number of days. The city commission discussed this practice, opting to instead require the owner of the establishment to pay double the established fines rather than be shut down for a day.

Commission Vice President Klayton Oltmanns said the city loses money from the sales tax revenue through the hospitality tax when establishments shut down during that period of time.

"We're penalizing ourselves at that point," he said. "I would rather give a bigger fine."

Commissioner Jason Fridrich also pointed out that shutting the establishment down for a day, or a few days, punishes more people than just the owner of the business.

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"Because you're not only penalizing the bar owner, you're penalizing the employees who depend on that paycheck," Fridrich said.

The commission also decided there would no longer be a mandatory hearing for repeated violators of the ordinance, but rather that licensees can request a hearing with the commission as opposed to being subjected to public humiliation, Mayor Scott Decker said.

Currently there is not any language regarding more than three violations in the ordinance, so the commission will add "third and subsequent" to the language so that the punishment for the fourth and fifth offense is the same as the third. City Administrator Shawn Kessel said he did not recall a situation where an establishment was caught violating the ordinance more than three times within 24 months.

The commission discussed adjusting the punishments so that they are less severe than they are currently. There was no consensus on this topic, though there was discussion about making the crime an infraction - meaning jail time could not be considered as a punishment though the charge will still appear on the person's record. Fridrich also suggested making the criminal charges more severe for the minor who may be trying to deceive the establishment rather than the server who failed a compliance check.

Currently, the state law makes it a Class A misdemeanor to serve alcohol to a minor, while the city's laws identify the crime as a Class B misdemeanor, said city attorney Haylee Cripe. The city is able to hold the crime to a lesser charge because it does not consider intention as a factor.

"I have not seen an element of intent in any of these servers," Cripe said. "Most often it's a mistake or a failure to ask for identification, but not an intentional serving of, 'I'm aware this person is under 21. I am intentionally providing them with an alcoholic beverage.' So that's why we can do a lesser charge as opposed to the state's Class A. It's because we remove that element of intent which changes the crime."

The commission will hold another special meeting regarding the ordinance at a later date, specifically regarding compliance checks and clearing up some more language in the text. That meeting date will be announced after Dickinson Police Chief Dustin Dassinger has time to prepare for such a meeting - because his staff perform the compliance checks.

Cripe will draft the amended text of the ordinance to reflect the commission's changes thus far, which the commission will then vote on and adjust later in the year.

Related Topics: DICKINSON CITY COMMISSION
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