Proposed ordinance may affect Fake Patty’s

By Burk Krohe

City commissioners will consider amending a city ordinance related to enforcing Fake Patty’s Day occupancy limits at Tuesday’s 7 p.m. special meeting.

The annual unsponsored event has been held the weekend before St. Patrick’s Day and draws large crowds at Aggieville bars. The event has led to safety concerns about binge drinking and overcrowding at bars. Numerous bars were temporarily closed for overcrowding last year.

Commissioners discussed possible amendments to allow more aggressive enforcement of overcrowding violations at a Sept. 13 work session. Now, the city is pursuing four of those proposed changes.

The change that would cause the greatest immediate impact is allowing discretion to close a business up to 24 hours following overcrowding. Currently, the code allows for a business to be closed only until the overcrowding situation has been corrected. City officials believe providing authorities the flexibility to close places for 24 hours will prevent reoccurring overcrowding, especially in cases with external factors such as a special event or large crowds in the immediate vicinity.

The second change would clarify that the Riley County Police Department has the authority to enforce overcrowding violations. Currently, the code requires enforcement by the “fire code official.” Authorities say RCPD officers are more readily available to address issues.

The third change would increase the penalties for violations. Currently, the maximum fine for an overcrowding citation is $500. The city has found the fine not to be a significant deterrent, especially considering high profit weekends such as Fake Patty’s Day.

City officials recommend the following adjustments: Making a first offense a minimum fine of $500 and a maximum fine of $2,500, making a second offense within one year a minimum fine of $1,000 and a maximum fine of $2,500, making a third offense within three years a minimum fine of $1,500 and a maximum fine of $2,500.

The final change would allow the city to pursue revocation or suspension of a drinking establishment’s license after a third overcrowding offense within a three-year period. However, before a revocation or suspension, the Commission must find that the violations represented a substantial threat to employees and patrons. City officials feel the change could be useful to target repeat offenders.

Commissioners will also consider changes related to the processes to enforce nuisance violations.

The pertinent chapters to the changes make it unlawful for any person to cause, permit or maintain a nuisance on any property. This requires the owner or occupant of a lot abutting a sidewalk used by the general public to keep it clear of snow.

In the past, the city has had the option to choose to issue a citation or pursue abatement of the nuisance by clearing it and charging the owner or occupant. However, due to a recent interpretation in the municipal court, the city must pursue abatement before any citation can be issued.

Hilgers said the changes will essentially create an abatement program for snow. He noted that the city is flexible on the matter, though, and will attempt to work with residents as much as possible.

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