A tough shot to swallow

Johnathan Brown

The Minneapolis City Council may soon have on its agenda a proposal to hold bars responsible for what patrons do off-premises. The move would ask the state to give cities the power to suspend or revoke bar licenses if its customers show a pattern of misbehavior after leaving. Of course, the city regulators who drafted the asinine proposal stand to benefit from increased authority. Earlier this month the city of Minneapolis imposed a smaller crowd limit, an end to free drink specials and a $25,000 fine on Gabby’s bar in northeast Minneapolis for failing to police its customers rowdy after-bar behavior. The Minnesota Court of Appeals struck the move down, ruling that Gabby’s could not be held responsible for off-premise behavior. The City Council should take up the measure and vote it down unanimously. Let’s assume the measure’s goal is worthwhile: urination in public, property damage, yelling or drunken fighting are behaviors worth reducing for the sake of peace and safety. Would holding bar owners responsible for some individuals’ childish behaviors actually reduce such behaviors? Hardly, in fact, the measure could make such behavior more prevalent if individuals feel they are no longer responsible for their own actions. What more, when one leaves a bar, it may be the third or fourth bar visited that night. How would regulators discern culpability from bar-hopping vandals? Would each and every establishment visited by our intoxicated ignoramus be on the hook? And it may sound cliche, but policies such as these, which would allow city regulators to fine bar owners and constrain their business practices, are unecessarily bad for both business and customers. The Dinkytowner Cafe recently closed because it couldn’t afford the renovations mandated by the City of Minneapolis. Of course, those renovations, like the proposal at hand, were meant to keep people safe. In the end, the $50,000 mandate caused jobs to be lost, reduced local bar competition and destroyed a vital hop-hop scene. It may be a tough shot to swallow for Minneapolis regulators drunk with power, but bar owners cannot and should not be held responsible for protecting people from the misbehavior of individuals off their property; that’s the police department’s job.