On Wednesday, September 14, City Council voted unanimously to approve changes to the "Time Place and Manner" section of Portland City Code governing behavior at establishments licensed to sell liquor. The changes took effect immediately.
Through the Office of Neighborhood Involvement (ONI) Liquor Licensing Program, I worked with concerned neighbors and with business owners to strengthen the City Code that provides some local regulation of liquor licensed establishments. Since enactment in 2004 thanks to Commissioner Leonard, the Time Place and Manner ordinance has provided a much-needed mechanism for neighbors and local law enforcement agencies to address problem businesses. Time Place and Manner is the only avenue available to address problems at licensed establishments at the local level. All other regulatory authority is held by the state Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC). I heard from many in the community that the 2004 ordinance could be improved, and asked Theresa Marchetti in ONI to bring a report and recommendations strengthening it to Council.
The new rules expand the City’s authority to include:
- Drug activity, prostitution, and incidents involving death or the risk of death to be considered nuisance activities for the purpose of the code
- A violation and abatement process if three nuisance incidents occur in 60 days (rather than three in 30 days, currently the standard)
- A violation and abatement process if a single serious incident occurs at an establishment, including homicide, assault with a weapon, assault causing serious injury, reckless endangerment, and felony sexual offenses
Many people might assume since most of these problems are crimes, existing processes should have been adequate to manage businesses where the crimes occur. The ordinance improves several areas where the current standards are insufficient to address problems. For instance, in January 2010 a Portland police officer walked into an establishment and saw several lines of cocaine laid out on the bar, with rolled up dollar bills ready for use. The officer was unable to determine ownership of the cocaine and was powerless to take action against the establishment. Under the adopted changes, this situation would be considered a nuisance activity.
While the 2004 code has been an important tool in addressing problem establishments, the adopted improvements go further in authorizing the City's ability to abate serious livability problems. This update requires non-compliant establishments to work with the City to resolve issues. These changes will better serve the communities of Portland, and will allow intervention when licensees act irresponsibly or negligently at the cost of community livability. The new rules will allow City staff to intervene earlier, avoiding more serious problems later.
For more information about liquor license issues, contact:
Office of Neighborhood Involvement Liquor License Program
These improvements are not sufficient to address neighborhood impacts of licensed establishments. More should be done by the State Legislature to allow more local control of liquor establishments. For example, Senator Jackie Dingfelder and Representative Tina Kotek tried hard, but without success in the last Legislature to win what seem to me to be basic common sense bills, such as allowing local jurisdictions to close an establishment for 72 hours if a homicide occurs there. We were also not able to win the right for local jurisdictions to limit saturation of liquor-sales establishments in neighborhoods. Although bills addressing these issues are unlikely to be proposed in the short 2012 session, I hope finding resolution to the observed and perpetual problems will be high on the City's Legislative Agenda in 2013.