It’s not what’s on the Tuesday, Dec. 21 City Council agenda that’s disturbing, but what isn’t.
What’s not on the agenda for that meeting is an item related to the new city policy creating the Safety Review Board to supervise security at restaurants, bars and establishments that don’t have on-premises alcohol consumption licenses but allow customers to consume alcohol on their premises illegally.
The idea of punishing businesses with licenses to sell alcohol that have “violent incidents” has been floated out in various forms for years. It seems like every time there is an aggravated assault at or near a business that serves alcohol, the idea is brought up again, but the opposition from the restaurant industry and the general public has kept an ordinance from ever being passed.
City councilmembers received an email from Assistant City Manager Trey Davis this week that included the new city policy establishing the Safety Review Board and two ordinances that also relate to restaurants and bars. One will allow restaurants to continue to use the additional public space they are now using by way of special event permits. The other creates a “Social District” in downtown Greensboro where, from noon to 9 p.m., people will be allowed to walk around with beer, wine or mixed drinks in designated to-go cups.
The two ordinances are on the agenda for City Council action, but the new policy that creates the Safety Review Board is not.
The memo from Davis states, “Therefore, the City of Greensboro (“City”) adopts the policy herein in an effort to respond to and prevent such acts within the City.”
The City Council has not adopted the policy. It would appear that a group of city employees with no authority from the City Council can adopt city policies all on its own.
The memo doesn’t state who will appoint the Safety Review Board or who the Safety Review Board reports to. There is also nothing in the memo about appealing decisions made by the Safety Review Board.
What is in the memo is a threat that if a restaurant or bar is brought before the Safety Review Board and does not comply with the recommendations made by that board that the full force of city inspectors and state alcohol enforcement will be brought down on that restaurant or bar.
The clear implication is that restaurants and bars that do not fall out of favor with the Safety Review Board will not suffer the same kind of scrutiny from city inspectors and the state alcohol enforcement agencies as those that do.
Mayor Nancy Vaughan said, “I have no problem calling for a vote. I’m sure it would pass.”
The City Council does vote on items that are not on the agenda. However, the public is allowed to speak on all agenda items, and if the proposed city policy is not on the agenda then the public will have no opportunity to speak against the issue.
When the public has been allowed to speak on this type of regulation, the issue has subsequently been continued or quietly dropped.