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Safe harbor future in doubt

City Council to look into implementing tougher regulations

— City officials don’t appear ready to implement a safe harbor for restaurants, bars or liquor stores any time soon.

On Thursday, the Steamboat Springs City Council, acting as the city’s liquor licensing authority, steered a discussion about creating a safe harbor for businesses that comply with the city’s liquor laws to a discussion about creating more regulations with which business owners must comply.

The safe harbor discussion was postponed in August to give council members Towny Anderson and Loui Antonucci an opportunity to share their views.



On Thursday, Anderson, who proposed creating the safe harbor as a means to offer protection to businesses that comply with city laws and pass police alcohol compliance checks, said he still thinks a safe harbor is a healthy alternative to the city’s current policy of ruling by fear. Anderson said he thinks business owners that raise their standards for responsibly serving alcohol are entitled to some protection.

“What I do see is we’re going to plateau eventually. You can only go so far with levels of compliance. We’re just going to be enforcing compliancy with fear, which is what we’re doing now, which is what we did before,” Anderson said.



The discussion was in response to a 10-month-old city ordinance that punishes businesses that serve alcohol to minors by suspending their liquor licenses. Some business owners argue the ordinance unfairly punishes responsible business owners instead of the employees who violate the law by serving alcohol to minors.

Anderson acknowledged the lack of support for his safe harbor proposal but encouraged the City Council to address the possibility of a safe harbor in the future.

City Council President Ken Brenner said he would not yet support any change in the city’s relatively new liquor license policy, especially because the city’s new ordinance is only 10 months old. He said he would consider raising the safe harbor issue again in a couple of years.

The council’s discussion then turned to regulations that could be added to the city’s liquor ordinances in the future.

Stemming from Amante Coffee’s show-cause hearing held Thursday, council members agreed that liquor license holders, especially new applicants, need to be provided a list of alcohol training resources in the community.

Other suggestions included ongoing alcohol training requirements for employees.

City council members also suggested creating a shorter time period between when an employee is hired and when he or she receives alcohol training.

Steamboat Springs police Officer Josh Carrell, who participates in the police department’s alcohol compliance checks, told the City Council it should consider creating a “social host ordinance,” which would put pressure on parents, guardians and third-party adults to be responsible for underage drinking that takes place in their home or on their property.

Carrell also suggested a “Cops in Shops” program that could deter underage drinkers from using fraudulent IDs at a bar if a police officer in uniform is walking around the bar, and programs that would allow an officer or investigator to devote time to stopping shoulder-tapping.

The City Council is scheduled to discuss creating new regulations or programs at its next meeting in October.


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