By consensus, at its Jan. 5 work session, the Greensboro City Council agreed to move forward with an ordinance to require bars and restaurants to meet the city’s security requirements after violent criminal activity takes place on their premises.
The ordinance is the brainchild of Mayor Nancy Vaughan, as a response to the increase in violent crime in 2020, including setting a new record with 61 homicides. The previous record set in 2019 was 45 homicides.
According to Vaughan, out of the 61 homicides in 2020, four occurred at places that serve alcohol and would therefore be affected by her proposed ordinance.
However, Councilmember Marikay Abuzuaiter noted that of those four homicides at places that serve alcohol, “one of those got shot at a different place and came on to the property and one was when a business was closed. We’ve got 59 other homicides we need to be dealing with.”
Vaughan said the proposed ordinance would not just be triggered by homicides but also by aggravated assaults, but that the Greensboro Police Department did not have the data on aggravated assaults at businesses that serve alcohol for consumption. However, last week Vaughan sent councilmembers information about the ordinance she is proposing and it included a chart from the Greensboro Police Department (GDP) that listed the number of aggravated assaults at “bar/nightclub” as two and homicides as three. The list is based only on data through Sept. 24, but with bars restricted to serving alcohol only outside and only until 9 p.m. because of COVID-19 restrictions, nightlife is not really hopping.
According to that data provided by the GPD, the most dangerous place to be is home. The report lists 203 aggravated assaults at residences and 16 homicides.
The second most dangerous place according to the GPD data is “highway/road/alley/street/sidewalk,” where there were 95 aggravated assaults and 10 homicides.
If aggravated assaults are the concern, perhaps more security is needed at convenience stores where there were nine aggravated assaults and one homicide.
Vaughan said that they were expanding the definition of where the ordinance would apply since, because of the COVID-19 restrictions, some bars had started serving food so they could qualify as restaurants. According to Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive orders, bars cannot serve alcohol inside their establishments, but restaurants can.
The GPD reported five aggravated assaults at restaurants and no homicides.
Abuzuaiter said that considering the extreme economic hardship suffered by bars and restaurants because of the COVID-19 restrictions, she would be hesitant to place an additional burden on them.
Abuzuaiter also said that, as the only member of the City Council who has ever had an ABC license, the requirements to obtain and keep a license were stringent and she questioned whether more restrictions on those businesses were necessary.
City Councilmember Justin Outling asked Assistant City Attorney Polly Sizemore, who has been working with Vaughan on the ordinance, what other cities in the state were doing.
Sizemore said that she had a search done of municipal ordinances in North Carolina to see how other cities were addressing the problem. She said, “We didn’t find any ordinances that address businesses that serve alcohol.”
Despite the data, Vaughan plans for the city staff and City Council to spend a lot of time holding “stakeholder” meetings and public hearings, crafting an ordinance to require businesses that serve alcohol that have had an aggravated assault or a homicide on their premises to be required to meet the city’s security standards before they are allowed to reopen for business.