The city of Greensboro’s proposed bar and restaurant ordinance gives an enormous amount of power to the “city” to determine the punishment meted out when an act of violence occurs.

City Councilmember Justin Outling pointed out in the discussion on Jan. 5 that a bar or restaurant could be doing everything right and still have an act of violence on its premises, triggering the ordinance to go into effect.

Whatever security plan is submitted to the city after a homicide has to be approved by the city before the bar or restaurant can reopen.  The ordinance gives the city what is politely called “flexibility” in approving the security plans, setting minimum standards.  But there is nothing in the ordinance that states if the minimum standards are met that the proffered “security plan” will be approved.

The ordinance is also silent on what employee or employees of the city will sit as judge and jury over a business that falls under this ordinance, and city councilmembers have different opinions on who makes the decision.

Councilmember Marikay Abuzuaiter said, “Police and Fire departments.”

Outling said, “I have no idea.”

And Outling asked, “What is the criteria by which any plan would be evaluated?”

When asked what happens if someone is arrested for an act of violence, but the district attorney drops the charges, Abuzuaiter said, “I don’t think they thought that out.  Basically, they’re shut down for 30 days.  If the DA doesn’t press charges are they still shut down for 30 days?”

She also noted that some grocery stores now have ABC onsite consumption licenses, so the city could find itself “shutting down a grocery store that allows beer to be served.”

If the owner of the establishment that serves alcohol that is attempting to comply with the ordinance disagrees with the decision of “the city,” how would that be appealed and who would hear that appeal?

What the ordinance appears to do is give the city the power to close any bar or restaurant that has a qualifying act of violence simply by making the security plan so stringent that the business could not survive or, more simply, by not approving any security plan and forcing the business to remain closed.

The ordinance gives the city the power to pick winners and losers among the establishments that serve alcohol for consumption by only requiring some to meet the minimum standards set forth in the ordinance and requiring others to go far above and beyond the minimum standards.