1/24/2013 10:16:00 AM How's the 2 a.m. closing time shaping up in NB?
BY DENISE MARTIN
It’s approaching one year since North Branch city council members allowed bars to stay open until 2 a.m. The city council and police had planned to have a discussion around the one-year anniversary, on how the later hours were working out. Police Chief Dan Meyer has prepared a report to kick-start discussion on the city experiencing a more-than 50-percent-increase in alcohol-related disturbance calls in 2012. The additional hour for serving alcohol was granted by council vote in February 2012.
Only JJ’s Pizza and Bowl has opted for 2 a.m. closing. Chief of Police Meyer compiled some research on callouts to bars, and for 2012 the tally went from 62 calls the year prior to adopting the 2 a.m. option-- to 101 calls for 2012. North Branch is home to three other bars that haven’t instituted 2 a.m. service--the American Legion, Olde Brick Inn and Pizza Pub. Police logs show JJ’s had the most disturbance/intoxicated related callouts in 2012, but the bar/bowling alley also had more calls than the others before opting to stay open until 2 a.m. There were 20 calls sending a squad car to JJ’s in 2011 and 34 in 2012 (statistics are through Dec. 26). Pizza Pub had 15 callouts in 2011 and 32 in 2012. Olde Brick Inn had 18 in 2011 and 24 in 2012. The Legion Post had seven in 2011 and 11 in 2012.
Chief Meyer said calls for a disturbance or intoxicated person generally require about 40 minutes of officer time. Depending on availability two officers prefer to respond. The chief explains in his council report that officers are noticing bar staff “have a difficult time” closing by 2 a.m. Police have witnessed people lingering in the parking lot at JJ’s as late as 3 a.m. When officers make contact after hours, the police chief said it’s been their experience that people they interface with at the bar are not North Branch residents and come from elsewhere to get in an extra hour of partying.
Law enforcement also has concerns with minor-aged customers and youth in the bowling alley area past teen curfew, which are footnotes in the chief’s report. The city is not yet paying overtime to handle the increasing callout load, Meyer added. The police department analysis contains no recommendation from the police chief about the later closing. It’s up to city council members to amend or repeal the ordinance. Around the county The 2 a.m. closure is allowable anywhere the local city/county which issues licenses approves, and the establishment gets a special permit from the Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division of the Minnesota Dept. of Public safety.
According to the state’s database, there are five 2 a.m. licensees in areas where sheriff deputies provide patrol. They are: CJ’s (Palmdale), Wild Mountain Recreation Area, Romayne’s in Taylors Falls, Wild River Bar & Grill and Big Game Bar in Shafer (formerly Crossroads Bar). The 2012 callouts provided by sheriff’s staff show Wild Mountain, with 101 calls in 2012, requiring the most sheriff response. Of these only two calls were coded for a disturbance. The majority of deputy calls to Wild Mt. were non-alcohol related calls which might be medical, entry alarms, thefts, property damage, fire, etc. Big Game Bar had 16 callouts and two were for disturbances. There were also just two calls to CJ’s (Hwy 95) for a disturbance/assault in 2012. out of 11 total callouts. Romayne’s also had 11 calls.
One was coded for an intoxicated-related offense. Wild River Bar & Grill had nine calls, none were coded as a disturbance. There have been state-issued 2 a.m. licenses in Harris but the state database showed these have lapsed or been cancelled. Wyoming, Lindstrom, Chisago City, Rush City and Center City have no 2 a.m. sites in their state database.