Lawrence City Commission to discuss penalties for ‘nuisance’ bars

The Lawrence City Commission will discuss whether the city should do more to penalize bars where police repeatedly respond to disturbances.

Mayor Leslie Soden requested the discussion, which will take place as part of the commission’s work session Tuesday. Soden said she wants the city to take more action when a bar requires repeated police responses for situations involving firearms, assaults or other serious crimes.

“What I’m looking to do is put more teeth into the local liquor licenses so that we can better handle nuisance bars,” Soden said.

Although the Kansas Alcoholic Beverage Commission issues state liquor licenses, Lawrence businesses that sell alcohol must also obtain a “drinking establishment” license from the city. The city licenses are tied to city zoning and other local regulations, but Soden said she wants the commission to go beyond that.

“We should be able to do more than that,” Soden said. “That seems awful weak to me.” According to city code, the City Commission does have the authority to revoke or suspend the local drinking establishment license if it determines the business is a “habitual public nuisance.” Among other requirements, the commission must be able to determine that the bar or club operates in a manner that habitually harms the public health, safety or welfare, and that those incidents can be fairly attributed to the specific business.

(Read more: LJWorld.com / Lawrence, Kansas)