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Katherine Grandstand, Forum Communications, Published November 23 2012

Dickinson officials: More bars could help reduce fights

DICKINSON, N.D. – Too many people in too few bars are causing too many fights for the Dickinson Police Department to deal with.

When City Attorney Matt Kolling proposed revisions to the city’s liquor license ordinance to city commissioners this week, the increase in fights was one major contributing factor.

“Part of the problem is that there are a limited number of facilities of bars for people to frequent, so we’re getting larger crowds in the bars than we have, which is causing some of the disorderly conduct cases that we’re seeing,” Dickinson police Capt. Joe Cianni said.

Police received more than 70 calls for service related to disorderly conduct or assault at bars since Jan. 1.

“In this particular case, I believe that more is better just because you have more choices for not only the citizens of Dickinson but those traveling through to be able to go into different locations, and spread the people out so they’re not confined into a certain amount of establishments,” Cianni said.

The number of fight calls at a bar, under the proposed changes, would affect its ability to renew its liquor license, Kolling said.

“Nobody wants a fight in any of the establishments, but unfortunately, it happens once in a while, and sometimes it’s no fault of the employees or the staff,” Eagles Club Manager Marty Boyle said, adding that the Eagles keeps a low-key, atmosphere and doesn’t have many, if any, fights.

One concern is that bar staff moves fights out of the bar and into the parking lots and streets and Dickinson police effectively become security for the establishment, Commission President Dennis Johnson said.

Police Capt. Dustin Dassinger suggested language in the ordinance to make a liquor license holder responsible for their whole premises, Kolling said.

“The bar bouncers, per se, aren’t dealing with any of the crowd,” Cianni said.

Dickinson code allows an on-sale/off-sale license holder one year from obtaining a license to make its first sale; otherwise it reverts back to the city. The proposed changes would allow an extension of up to a year, if requested in writing and if the city administrator sees fit.

Other proposed changes did not go over so well. One proposal would mandate that owners and managers of bars be a resident of Stark County for at least two years instead of the three months now required.

“That’s highly unlikely right now,” Commissioner Shirley Dukart said of finding a liquor store or bar manager who has lived here for two years.

The city is amidst the oil boom in western North Dakota, where population is exploding.

Another proposed change would restrict hotels with bars from obtaining a motel or hotel liquor license if they served the general public more than guests.

Commission President Dennis Johnson questioned how that would be enforced and said the existing city law that requires hotels to have 75 rooms to have a bar is a high enough standard.

Katherine Grandstand writes for the Dickinson Press

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