Tactic to crackdown on underage drinking voted down - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Tactic to crackdown on underage drinking voted down by Menomonie City Council

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Menomonie (WQOW) - A plan to punish Menomonie bars and stores that sell to minors has been shot down.

The city council was considering changing the rules on when businesses would be forced to close for five days if they had two liquor license violations. Under the proposal, the council could choose the specific days.  

The businesses complained that would hit them hard if the chosen days were around major events like holidays or homecoming. The goal was to continue the city's crackdown on underage drinking.  

But the proposal was defeated Monday night on an 8-2 vote. Instead the council decided to keep its current policy of closing the businesses starting the day after they a license is suspended.

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Menomonie (WQOW) - Any way you slice it, or pour it, Wisconsin has a drinking problem.

Underage drinking has been a major concern for years.

A vote last night by the Menomonie City Council sets the table.  It's a new way to make sure bars and other businesses are on board with prevention. 

Binge drinking, drunk driving, underage drinking, a trifecta of trouble in Wisconsin.

"Being a college town, we really have a problem with underage drinking. Most of our underage drinking offenses are with students," says City Council Alder person Leslie Brown.

A problem the Menomonie City Council is trying to curb.

"We want to become the leading state in preventing underage drinking. We don't want to be the drunk capital of the world," says Brown.

Changes are now ticketed for Menomonie businesses that are caught serving minors.  The city council reduced the time a bar or liquor store would lose their license if they're busted. Wait a minute, reducing the sentence is supposed to deter the bad behavior?

"So we did lessen it. But at our next city council meeting we are going to address the days of the week and the time of the year we are going to do the suspension and that's where it's going to differ the most," says Brown.

The proposed policy would allow the council to choose when the suspension would occur, a difference that is going to hit retailers where it counts, in the pocketbook.

"It's going to be during the school year. It's going to be homecoming weekend, graduation weekend, parent's weekend. It's going to be Tuesday through Sunday. It's going to have some bite to it," says Brown.

That's an idea that doesn't sit well with at least one bar owner.

"It would be catastrophic. Homecoming weekend is where you make your money. You have to budget to stay open during the summer and that's how you're able to stay in business. I think the bars right downtown would be targeted," says Jason Marks, owner of Bro'z in Menomonie.

Instead, Jason Marks says use a blanket approach for bars.  In the coming weeks we'll see how the council considers the calendar as an effective tool.

City Council Member Brown says right now businesses appeal their cases until summer break rolls around. That way they avoid losing business during their busy season.  The City Council will discuss how to enforce suspensions at its next meeting on Monday, September 16th.  There are other efforts being made to curb underage or binge drinking.  UW-Stout says a recent study about students and alcohol shows the number of students who do not drink has almost doubled and alcohol citations are down.

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