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Council inching toward alternative to doing away with liquor cards

Posted at 6:22 PM, Oct 03, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-03 19:22:46-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A proposal to do away with liquor cards is stirring up controversy.  

The city council's Neighborhoods and Public Safety Committee took the topic up for the third time Wednesday morning, but ultimately pushed it to next week because they couldn't come up with a unanimous decision. 

Because of the outcry from the public and sexual assault advocacy groups, the committee must come up with an alternative. 

"We know that alcohol is the number one substance used in drug-facilitated sexual assault. That's not a perception; that's a reality," said Victoria Pickering with MOCSA (Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault). 

Members in the bar and restaurant industry say they feel targeted and don't think bartenders and servers should have to get a $39 liquor card every three years. 

"I'm less worried about a server at Ruby Tuesdays than I am about just a guest at the bar," said Kevin Timmons, who owns Nick and Jake's restaurant and is the president of the Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association. "There's as much of a concern about the people coming into the bar because that's where a lot of improprieties happen." 

If the current alternative passes, anyone who wants to work, for example, at a Chief's game or at the Sprint Center, or in a convenience or grocery store would not have to get a liquor card anymore. Those with non-violent offenses, like drug dealers, wouldn't have to wait three years to apply for a card anymore. Violent offenders would still need to show five years of "good time" before applying. However, if someone is a child molester, rapist, murderer, or sex offender they would never be eligible for a liquor card. 

Jim Ready with Regulated Industries says around 10,000 people in the city have a liquor card, and about once a week they'll deny one because the person is an offender. 

"I'm in full agreement that I don't see the problems with packaged liquor. I haven't come across any instances with dangerous things happening when you sell packaged liquor. I can't imagine a problem with it when you talk about grocery stores or convenience stores," Ready said. 

The question the council debated is: who does the city need to protect the public from and how much will it regulate? 

"These are coworkers, these are bosses, these are people you go to school with. These are people who you go on a date with. These are not people who are serving me a drink," said one woman who identified herself as a sexual assault survivor.

"If I don't have to inconvenience 10,000 people and hundreds of businesses, I would prefer to do that," Wagner said. " I also realize that there are many people who believe that the liquor card will do and keep people out and that the issue of inconvenience is a small price to pay for that."

Critics of the original proposal say we cannot rely on the Missouri sex offender registry because of the fact that authorities cannot locate hundreds of offenders in Jackson County alone.  The number statewide is around 1,200. 

Many folks at the meeting agreed with the alternative, saying it still provides a level of public safety while giving low-wage people and reformed offenders the chance to make a living. 

Evan Culp, a bartender who works various events around the metro, says the card does nothing. 

"Would you have to go do a safety course or something? No. So, it doesn't seem to matter which way, they just say, 'Hey give us 40 dollars,' and we'll do it because we want to keep working events," Culp said. 

He was renewing his license Wednesday morning, while his friend was getting hers for the first time. 

"I've done the whole KC metro area, from Overland Park to Lawrence, Kansas to you know, private events and other restaurants, and it's only Kansas City proper that makes you get a liquor license," Culp said.