City to study alcohol violation penalties
NEW ULM – The City of New Ulm plans to examine its policies on alcohol license violation penalties after conducting a comparative survey of how other Minnesota cities carry out the same enforcement. A subcommittee will be formed to determine if any revisions should be made to its policies.
The survey showed that New Ulm has the lowest penalties and fines of the cities that responded. Additionally, New Ulm’s Best Practices incentive policy is a distinct minority.
New Ulm’s policy currently penalizes a first-time liquor license violation with a $250 and a five-day suspension of the license. Second violations are a $500 fine and a 10-day suspension. Third violations are a $1,000 fine and a 15-day suspension. Fourth violations are revocation of the license.
Violations under New Ulm’s ordinances are sale of alcohol to an underage person, sale of alcohol to an obviously intoxicated person, sales after-hours, illegal gambling on the premises, failure to pay penalties associated with a violation or a business without an off-sale license failing to stop a person from leaving with an alcoholic beverage. In addition, any violation related to felony, done while only holding a 3.2 percent malt liquor license or done while the related license is under suspension or revocation is grounds for immediate revocation of the license on the first offense.
Of the 11 other cities surveyed, first-time penalties ranged from $250 to $1,000 with the most common penalty being a $500 with one to five days of suspension. Second violations ranged from $500 to $1,500 with the most common being $750 with one to 10 days of suspension. Third violations ranged from $1,000 to $2,000 with the most common being $2,000 and six to 60 days of suspension. The fourth violations were uniformly revocations of the license.
New Prague, Lakeville and Bloomington had the steepest penalties, quickly ramping up to $2,000 fines and long suspensions. However, Bloomington’s bigger fines only applied to the licenses for on-sale liquor, on-sale club liquor and off-sale liquor.
Beyond the penalties, New Ulm has an incentive tool with its Best Practices policy. The policy requires participating bars or stores to have 75 percent of their employees trained in alcohol compliance requirements within a short time from being hired. The businesses are also required to set up internal compliance training programs. The reward for the participating businesses is a 15 percent reduction on annual liquor license prices, and the discount jumps to 25 percent if they go three years without a violation.
Additionally, the policy exempts the businesses from the licenses suspensions but not the financial fines until the third violation. At that point, the business is kicked out of program, subject to the normal third violation enforcement and unable to reapply for the policy for a year, thus losing the discount on their license.
Survey results indicate the Best Practices policy is fairly uncommon. Only three cities carried a similar policy – Lakeville, Maplewood and Mendota Heights. Lakeville had the biggest difference between its penalties and Best Practice penalties. The first violation is $1,000, the second is $1,500 plus a six-day suspension and the third violation is $2,000 and a 12-day suspension. The Best Practices penalties were exactly half the size of the fines and half of the days of suspension.
After receiving the report on Tuesday, the New Ulm City Council decided to form a subcommittee to further review the information and make suggestions on any changes to the policy.
Although many details are pending, preliminary members of the subcommittee will be Councilor Les Schultz, Councilor Lisa Fischer, City Manager Brian Gramentz and New Ulm Police Chief Myron Wieland. By law, the subcommittee meetings must be open to the public and have its meeting times posted ahead of each session. Any changes suggested by the committee will not take effect until close to the end of the year.
(Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org)