Council votes against alcohol laws

By Patrick Wade

The Champaign City Council voted down an ordinance, 5-4, Tuesday night that would have tightened alcohol regulations in city bars in front of a meeting chamber nearly filled with students.

If it had been passed, the ordinance would have prohibited celebrity bartenders and shot servers who are not certified by the Training for Intervention Procedures program. It also would have required hosts of private parties to sign a contract detailing the event, as well as prohibited special drink prices during those parties.

Champaign mayor and liquor commissioner Gerald Schweighart said much of this ordinance stemmed from liability and accountability issues during private parties at bars.

Dist. 1 Council member Gina Jackson said that the ordinance was meant not only to protect the students, but also to protect residents.

“We have a bigger, broader picture and we would like all the students to keep participating in the broader picture,” Jackson said before the vote.

Matt Bossemeyer, senior in Engineering and manager at Station 211, 211 E. Green St., said it would have been “difficult to find new ways to employ” shot servers had the ordinance passed.

“This was, in fact, the government reaching too far into private business owners’ rights,” Bossemeyer said.

The council voted in favor of the ordinance in a July 10 study session but required a majority vote Tuesday night to make it law.

“In the last two weeks, the discussion of each of these provisions in detail and depth has been dizzying,” said Dist. 2 Council member Michael La Due. La Due originally voted in favor of the ordinance in the study session, but voted against it Tuesday night. He added that he felt the council was being asked to change the ordinance in light of new information.

After the meeting, Schweighart expressed his disgust in the city council for voting down an ordinance recommended by the Liquor Advisory Commission.

“I don’t think the (Liquor Advisory Commission) is going to be interested in entertaining anything after spending that amount of time on it,” Schweighart said. He added that the commission had spent nine months working on this ordinance.

La Due said it is unclear whether similar legislation will return to a council agenda.

Council members Ken Pirok and Tom Bruno publicly expressed their interest in disbanding the Liquor Advisory Commission.

“If they make such a motion to have (the commission) disbanded, I would not be surprised to see the Liquor Advisory Commission to say, ‘the heck with you, we’re done,'” Schweighart said.