April 22nd, 2011 | by NIGEL JAQUISS News | Posted In: Legislature, Multnomah County, Cops and Courts

Bill Aimed At Problem Bars and Clubs Killed

Oregon State Capitol.Oregon's Capitol Building

The House Judiciary Committee yesterday killed a bill that would grant local police the authority to shut down troubled bars and nightclubs immediately after an incident and keep them closed for 72 hours.

Rep. Tina Kotek (D-Portland) has been pushing this concept for a couple sessions. After a high-profile January killing at Club 915 gave fresh impetus to the concept, Kotek and co-sponsors re-introduced a newer version of the bill that failed in the last session.

Kotek's basic concern is that the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, which regulates bars and nightclubs, may not move fast enough in some cases. She and co-sponors tried hard to gain support for House Bill 3295, including agreeing to an amendment that would have caused the measure to expire or "sunset" in 2014, which is a relatively short life-span for new legislation. But the House Judiciary Committee took the side of bars and nightclubs and spiked the measure.

Here's Kotek's statement after her bill went down. The Democrat she refers to as having voted against the bill was Rep. Mike Schaufler (D-Happy Valley).

(Salem) The House Committee on Judiciary failed to approve a bill today that would allow police to shut down bars after the occurrence of an egregious crime related to the sale or service of alcohol on the premises. House Bill 3295 failed by a vote of six to four, with five Republicans and one Democrat voting to block the bill’s progress.

“I expected my colleagues to take the reasonable, responsible position on this very narrow bill,” said Representative Carolyn Tomei (D-Milwaukie), a member of the Committee who supported the bill. “Even with all of the partisan differences this session, this bill should have been an easy call.”

The challenges faced by local law enforcement in addressing problem establishments have made headlines this year. Following the New Year’s Eve deadly shooting at Club 915, the Portland Police Bureau urged the Oregon Liquor Control Commission to immediately suspend Club 915’s license, based on the severity of the event, the risk of retaliation, and a history of 19 serious incidents during the previous year. Six days passed before the OLCC took action.

“It’s embarrassing that the committee refused to address the serious public safety risk posed by this gap in enforcement,” said Representative Tina Kotek (D- N/NE Portland), a chief co-sponsor of the bill. “With the committee’s responsibility to protect public safety, Oregonians deserve better. It’s just unacceptable.”

 The bill would have allowed a city governing body or the lead officer in the law enforcement agency to order the closure of a bar for up to 72 hours if there is a continued threat to public safety following an event of murder, manslaughter, serious assault, sexual assault, or if shots are fired.

 “Something is very wrong in the decision-making process when the so-called ‘business interest’ of problem liquor establishments are more persuasive than the public safety risk of retaliation after a gang rape or shooting,” said Representative Kotek. “We’re not talking about a minor noise complaint.”

 Despite the setback, several legislators including Representatives Kotek and Tomei expressed determination that this issue be addressed by the Legislature.

 
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