Lawrence City Commission discusses ‘nuisance’ bars; updates to city’s alcohol codes upcoming

Upcoming changes to city code may help clarify procedures regarding requests for the state to revoke the liquor licenses of local bars.

Although the Kansas Alcoholic Beverage Commission issues state liquor licenses, the city can request a hearing for the state to consider revoking the license of bars that threaten public safety.

Mayor Leslie Soden requested that the commission discuss the city’s role in liquor licenses as part of the commission’s work session Tuesday. Soden said that she wants the city to be able to better handle “nuisance” bars and that she thinks city code should be clearer about what the city can do.

“This is just something ongoing that I feel like we should be looking at,” Soden said.

City Attorney Toni Wheeler said the city can request a hearing to have the state consider suspending or revoking a bar’s liquor license if there are violent crimes in or around the bar or if there is an unreasonable drain on resources to maintain safety. Wheeler said Lawrence was one of the cities that lobbied the state for the ability to request a hearing and, since then, has had some success in such petitions.

Though there is not a written policy, Wheeler said that the city attorney’s and city manager’s offices informally work with the Lawrence Police Department to share information and monitor any significant public health or safety issues in the community. She said any time a problem arises with a bar, the city can petition to the Alcoholic Beverage Commission for a hearing. Soden said she thinks instead of an informal practice, city code should have a systematic process should a bar require repeated police responses for serious crimes, and make it clear under what circumstances the city will request a hearing with the state. She said having a written policy would help any perceptions that the city is targeting certain establishments.

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