On Tuesday, Feb. 18, the Dillon Town Council passed an ordinance requiring business owners to report certain disturbances at their establishments and implemented criminal penalties for those who do not comply with the new law.
The ordinance passed 5-1 Tuesday night, with Councilman Erik Jacobsen voicing the only vote in opposition to the new regulations. Councilman Tim Westerberg was absent.
The ordinance amends several sections of the Dillon Municipal Code that specifically pertain to liquor-licensed establishments, including what is now considered prohibited behavior at local bars and restaurants, and new requirements placed on business owners and their staff to report such disturbances to law enforcement.
In addition to the more traditional rules — such as prohibiting the sale of alcohol to minors, knowingly intoxicated persons and after permitted business hours — the ordinance broadly prohibits “any disturbance, unlawful and disorderly acts from taking place on any premises,” and makes it unlawful for business owners and employees to participate in or encourage such behavior.
The ordinance also prohibits “loitering of visibly intoxicated persons or habitual drunkards” near businesses, and “makes rowdiness, undue noise or other disturbances or activity offensive to the senses of an average person” illegal.
The ordinance further requires business owners and their employees to immediately report to the Dillon Police Department any unlawful or disorderly act. Failure to comply could result in a business owner being charged with two new criminal violations — “Conduct Prohibited in Liquor License Establishments” and “Duty to Report Disturbances” — both of which also were included in the new ordinance.
Violators of the new law first could face suspension, revocation or non-renewal of their liquor license by the Local Liquor Licensing Authority, or the town council. The violations also are considered criminal in nature, and penalties may be imposed by the municipal court.
The ordinance goes into effect five days after its passage. Absence of a bar owner during an alleged infraction is not grounds for a defense, the ordinance further declares.
Prior to the vote, Jacobsen asked town of Dillon manager Joe Wray what the local repercussions would be and if the ordinance would result in the police department issuing an excessive amount of citations, as has happened since previous town council’s amended Dillon’s parking code.
“This makes it easier for law enforcement,” Wray said. “As a home rule municipality we want to have ordinances in place that reflect what the community wants.”
Wray’s statement sparked another question from Mayor Pro-Tem Kevin Burns, who asked whether the ordinance had been vetted by the Dillon Business Association and the local business community.
“No,” Wray said, “and I haven’t seen a reason to.”
DBA president Bill Falcone confirmed Wednesday that no one from the town approached him about the ordinance. That lack of communication was surprising to Falcone considering the DBA has a government liaison committee that meets monthly with Wray and certain town council members to discuss local legislation of interest to the business community.
Although Falcone said he was familiar with the ordinance, he admitted he had not found the time to scrutinize it before Tuesday’s final passage. Without fully reviewing the new law, Falcone said he thought it was pressed due to a recent incident at Lake Dillon Tavern.
“This seems to be a reaction to what happened at one bar,” Falcone said. “It’s surprising the council would go that far to jeopardize other businesses in town with criminal prosecution.
“In many cases businesses are corporations and to charge a business owner with a crime over something that may not be in their direct control to me is a pretty onerous action by the government.”