Steamboat Springs The Steamboat Springs City Council will meet today to begin a two-part process regarding the prosecution of six local business owners whose establishments failed a December alcohol compliance check.
The hearings mark the first time in more than 15 years that the council -- which also acts as the city's Liquor Licensing Authority -- will consider the compliance check cases. In the past, only the police department and the District Attorney's Office handled such cases.
The six businesses that failed the Dec. 16 compliance checks were the Cantina, Dos Amigos, the Fireside Bar at Holiday Inn, the Market on the Mountain, the Rio Grande Mexican restaurant and Steamboat Discount Liquors.
In October, the City Council adopted a new ordinance that forces the owners or liquor license holders of businesses that fail compliance checks to appear before the council instead of going through the judicial system.
In all previous compliance check cases, businesses that failed the checks were given citations for the clerk or server who sold alcohol to the underage buyer as well as the business owner or liquor license holder. The liquor license holders were cited regardless of whether they were present at the time of the sale.
As part of the new ordinance that took effect Nov. 1, only the clerks or servers are cited by police. The liquor license holders now must face the City Council.
Steamboat Springs City Clerk Julie Jordan said today's meeting will be an opportunity for her to present written complaints about the alleged compliance check violations for each of the six establishments.
Jordan said the council will decide on further action.
"This hearing is an opportunity for the City Council to determine if there is enough probable cause to move ahead and hold a show-cause hearing," she said.
Jordan said a show-cause hearing is the second step in prosecuting the businesses that failed the compliance check. During a hearing, the liquor license holders appear before the City Council to present their case.
The liquor license holders are not required to attend today's probable cause hearings, though they were invited, Jordan said.
If the cases progress to the show-cause hearings, the council will decide what type of punishment to impose on the liquor license holder. Penalties could include suspension of a business's liquor license or a fine.
The City Council "can do anything they want," Jordan said. "I am suggesting (the council) conduct a show-cause hearing for each of the six businesses."
Jordan said the ordinance is not retroactive -- businesses that failed previous compliance checks will be treated as if their December violation was their first.
Jordan said she has included additional information as part of her presentation, including other state liquor license authorities' rules for punishing first-time offenders.
Jordan found most establishments have their licenses suspended for seven days. The suspension often is reduced to two days -- the remaining five days are enforced if the business commits another violation within a year.
"I think our community is looking at our City Council to listen to what we've said in the past about needing some assistance in curbing our underage drinking problem," Jordan said. "(The City Council) is taking this very seriously."
The public is welcome to attend the hearing, though public comment will not be allowed.
City Council member Kevin Kaminski, president of B&K Distributing, will step down during the hearings to avoid a conflict of interest.
-- To reach Alexis DeLaCruz, call 871-4234 or e-mail email@example.com.