Liquor license contingency puts greater restrictions on the Plymouth bar
The Plymouth City Council has put a restriction on the liquor license for Cowboy Jack’s in an effort to reduce the number of alcohol-related incidents, particularly as the incidents relate to public safety.
During the past three years, the city police department has been tracking the “place of last drink” on all alcohol-related calls in an effort to combat over-serving of alcohol and reduce related calls.
In 2013, a committee was formed, with representatives from the Osseo, Brooklyn Center and Plymouth police departments as part of North Memorial Hospital’s Partnership for Change initiative. The goal then was – and continues to be – to combat drug and alcohol abuse among youth and young adults in the northwest suburbs, according to Jim Long, Plymouth’s community relations officer and police department liaison to the committee. The result of the committee’s work was to ask individuals involved in alcohol-related reports where their place of last drink was and to notify and monitor those establishments.
According to Partnership for Change, one of the options of using the last drink data is implementing Retail Alcohol Vendor Education and Enforcement, which provides education, recommendations and resources for responsible serving practices.
Currently, there are 44 law enforcement offices in the state collecting this data, Long noted.
In 2014, the first year of monitoring, Cowboy Jack’s averaged one last drink report every eight days, noted Long, who has been tracking the data for the department.
Because the data is meant to be a learning tool for retailers that serve alcohol, Cowboy Jack’s was notified of each of these instances so as to use it as a training opportunity for staff or to make any necessary staffing adjustments, Long explained.
In 2015, in response to the high number of last drink reports, the council added a contingency to Cowboy Jack’s liquor license. The contingency stated the establishment must not be the place of last drink in police calls for disorderly conduct, domestic assault, physical assault, driving while intoxicated or medical incidents related to intoxication on more than three occasions within three consecutive months.
Long said the bar and grill came close to violating the contingency in 2015 but did not, therefore the contingency was removed from the 2016 liquor license.
When it came time for the city council to consider the license renewal last month, the public safety department recommended there be a permanent restriction placed on Cowboy Jack’s after 18 last drink cases were reported in 2016. This total included five reports in October alone, including four reports for driving while intoxicated.
Cowboy Jack’s had three times more reports than Lucky’s 13, the other bar in Plymouth open until 2 a.m., which had six reports last year.
During the council meeting Jan. 24, Brian Asmus, the operating manager for Cowboy Jack’s, disputed some of the reports, stating they could not be definitively proven. “There’s a lot of gray area in some of the POLDs,” he told the council.
Asmus noted Cowboy Jack’s has completed alcohol training with its servers and does its best not to tax the police department by resolving some of the problems internally.
He asked the council to reconsider placing the restriction on the liquor license, citing it would damage the business and possibly even put the establishment out of business.
“It’s not our desire to put you or anybody else out of business,” Councilmember Jim Willis told Asmus.
While Willis acknowledged there were ambiguities in some of the reports, he said the number of calls remained a concern.
Mayor Kelli Slavik supported the contingency, noting there is a perception in the community that there is a problem at Cowboy Jack’s, and this was an important step in keeping the community safe.
Public Safety Director Mike Goldstein said he wasn’t interested in harming any of the businesses either, “but there is something incongruent with this establishment as compared to any of the others,” he said, noting he was unaware of any other place in which a person had to be hospitalized for high alcohol consumption levels.
Goldstein also noted that reports are “just a barometer,” adding there is no evidence used to prove the persons reported in the data were served at the establishment, since the officers take the people for their word, “but there is something happening where it (Cowboy Jack’s) is attracting people with very high BACs (blood alcohol content).”
Long further explained that not all of the reports would be held against the business, rather, the department would look at each individual case before it would come before the council in a public hearing. Any action against the business would be at the council’s discretion.
Long also assured that any calls placed by the business would not be held against the business, adding he doesn’t want any business not calling law enforcement if and when it’s needed.
“We want them to succeed,” Long said, noting the reports are meant to be a proactive approach.
“We just want to keep the community safe and to keep people from drinking to such excess if we can,” Goldstein told the council.
Contact Kristen Miller at Kristen.Miller@ecm-inc.com.