St. Charles police have forwarded a report to the city Liquor Commission after a woman had an accident within minutes of leaving , early Friday. No one was hurt in the crash, but police said the woman’s blood-alcohol content was three times the legal limit.
Police described the woman, whose blood-alcohol content was .248, as “extremely intoxicated,” and the report concludes that the tavern either overserved alcohol to the woman or allowed her to remain on the premises in an intoxicated state, both of which violate the city’s liquor code.
Kathryn Dale Doepke, 22, of the 100 block of South 3rd Street, was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, DUI with a blood-alcohol content greater than .08, and improper lane use after the vehicle she was driving struck a parked vehicle in the 100 block of South 3rd Street. She was released on her own recognizance pending a Feb. 21, 2013 appearance in court.
The report to the Liquor Commission is significant on several counts. First, and not the least, is that it comes six months into an effort by bar owners, under intense pressure from the City Council, to reduce alcohol-related problems in the downtown. That followed complaints by the city in may over the same issues.
Second is that the report on Friday’s incident faults The Beehive, whose owner has been the spokesman for the St. Charles Tavern Association, which formed to work with the city to combat the issues and thereby appease the City Council.
It should be noted that the police report to the Liquor Commission clearly states that Beehive owner Steve Baginski was not present at the tavern during the nearly 2½ hours Doepke was there late Thursday and early Friday.
Still, that it was Baginski's bar which police highlighted in the report is likely to raise more than a few eyebrows on the City Council and elevate doubts about the association’s sincerity about addressing problems in the downtown.
Just six months ago, a spike in alcohol-related offenses downtown prompted Mayor Donald DeWitte, the city’s liquor commissioner, to propose cutting back bar hours from 2 a.m. to 1 a.m. DeWitte and alderman blamed the public drunkenness, street brawls and public urination squarely on the taverns and bars, saying the incidents were a direct result of the overservice of alcohol to patrons.
In addition to fears that a rowdy, drunken atmosphere might drive visitors away from the city’s nighttime entertainment district, an officer was struck but not injured during once incident over the summer, and a month later police wielded a Taser to subdue an intoxicated man who became belligerent with police.
The City Council never acted on DeWitte’s proposal to curb bar hours at the time, meaning the threat remains on the table for city officials to wield.
While tavern and bar owners fear the threat — some have said that final hour before closing is lucrative — they also resent it, because they believe that bar hours originally were extended to 2 a.m. to ease the businesses’ pain when the city imposed an alcoholic beverage tax.
Working for Progress
Still, most downtown tavern owners have been working to remedy the situation. They formed the St. Charles Tavern Association to combat downtown issues related to drinking, focusing on improved training for alcohol servers, self-policing themselves and instituting a “ban list,” to ensure that once a troublemaker has been banned from three downtown establishments, he or she will be banned from all of them.
, and , have resisted invitations to join the association, Baginski has told the City Council.
The city has reciprocated, as well, increasing fines for such infractions as public drunkenness and public urination to address the personal responsibility issue as it relates to patrons of the downtown establishments. And Police Chief Jim Lamkin has praised the association’s efforts, saying its members have been more diligently reporting problems before they escalate into issues of a more serious or dire nature.
Yet, aldermen have remained skeptical, and because the threat to reduce bar hours remains on the table, the City Council’s doubts have fueled fears among bar owners that their efforts may be futile.
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