By Katie Dahlstrom Herald Assistant Editor
The Clinton Herald
---- — CLINTON — A group of Clinton bar owners won’t have to worry about outfitting all drinking age patrons younger than 30 with colorful wristbands after the Clinton City Council voted down a resolution that mandated customers wear the accessory at all times.
During their Committee of the Whole meeting Tuesday, council members voted 6-1 against the changes proposed by the Gateway ImpACT Coalition’ s marijuana and underage drinking group that would have required the 14 bars in Clinton that allow patrons younger than 21 to issue wristbands to people between the ages of 21 and 30.
Ward 1 Councilwoman Maggie Klaes cast the lone vote in favor of the program.
Before voting, three bar owners and a bartender told council members they did not believe the wristbands would effectively deter underage drinking in the bars that have a younger than 21 exemption.
“I don’t know if we have a lot of problems with (underage drinking) around town, but if we do, I think those bars should be addressed and not everybody,” Silver Dollar Saloon owner Shelly Brewer said.
Of the 14 establishments that welcome people younger than 21, two sold alcohol to a minor in a compliance check performed by the Clinton Police Department.
Just Friends owner David Just warned against the council implementing the wristband rule because of how it would affect business owners who already face a myriad of fees.
“It’s more expense for everyone. Lord knows there’s enough expense on bars now. Let alone smoking laws killed us, sewer bills are killing us, sales, tax, permits, licenses. We don’t need another expense,” Just said.
MUD representative Dana Hall told council members she spoke with nearly a dozen bar owners the wristband rule would apply to, all of whom had different opinions about the wristbands’ worth, effectiveness and enforcement.
The various responses supported previous discussions that suggested the use of wristbands should be at the discretion of bar owners, At-large Councilman John Rowland said.
“It goes back to what we talked about in committee that if a bar wants to choose to use wristbands all the time or whatever policy they want, they could do it. And so we really don’t need a law on wristbands,” Rowland said. “I just don’t see the need to pass this legislation.”
A colorful wristband requirement wasn’t the only change up for consideration. The proposed amendment also stipulated if a patron is purchasing a pitcher of beer or multiple drinks, all members of his or her party must be identified and checked for wristbands or carded. Employees also would have been directed to regularly check tables with pitchers of beer to make sure no one younger than 21 is drinking.
The proposed amendment has been discussed at the committee and Committee of the Whole level five times, the last of which ended in a 3-3 vote which landed the item on Tuesday’s agenda. Each discussion yielded more thoughts on the city’s policy relating to minors in bars.
At-large Councilwoman Jennifer Graf said wristbands were just a small piece of a larger issue that the wristband discussion has brought to light.
“It almost seems like what you’ve brought before, in my opinion, the city to make a decision on has been like an onion and it just keeps peeling and getting more and more. I think there’s so many things we need to discuss before this becomes an actual decision on wristbands,” Graf said.
The council’s vote on the proposed changes doesn’t mean the end for discussions on the rules regulating how bars handle patrons younger than 21.
The Rules and Regulations committee is slated to discuss the the 12:30 a.m. curfew for those underage customers.