The Gazette covers City Hall, now a flood-damaged icon on May's Island in the Cedar River

Archive for March 30th, 2009|Daily archive page

From 71 applicants, nine are chosen: City Council names Local-Option Sales Tax Oversight Committee

In City Hall, local-option sales tax on March 30, 2009 at 6:16 pm

The City Council on Monday named the nine members of the city’s Local-Option Sales Tax Oversight Committee, a group picked from 71 who had applied for the job.

The members are Markell Kuper, Elizabeth Hladky, Heather Schoonover, Charles Watkins, Jeff Palmer, Sandra Skelton, Gary Ficken, Jeffery Beer and Stephen Hammes.

The council will formerly appoint the committee members at its weekly Wednesday meeting, which falls on April 1, the day the one-percent local-option sales tax starts to be collected in the city.

The tax will be in place through June 30, 2014, and is expected to raise between $17 and $18 million a year for the city.

The oversight committee’s mission is to review how the council spends the tax revenue to make sure it is in accord with the March 3 referendum that put the tax in place.

Ninety percent of the money is to go to flood relief, and more specifically, to housing buyouts and rehabilitation. Ten percent is to be used for property-tax relief.

Ficken, a local business owner, led the citizen campaign, Vote Yes! For Our Neighbors, that promoted the local-option sales tax. Hammes, an accountant, led the city’s Twin Pines Golf Course Task Force that recommended in 2008 that the city not sell 20 acres of the 150-acre course for a commercial development.

There’s a new sheriff in town, and he’s the police chief; just ask The Tycoon tavern

In City Hall, Police Department on March 30, 2009 at 11:09 am

The Tycoon tavern in downtown Cedar Rapids has been tangling with the Police Department of late.
Part of it is timing: The liquor establishment at 427 Second Ave. SE needed to renew its liquor license just as still-new Police Chief Greg Graham has decided to knuckle down on taverns that generate too many police calls.

The Tycoon erred, firstly, by not filing for the license renewal in a timely fashion. The city rule is that an establishment needs to make an application at least 30 days in advance to give the city regulators and, most importantly, the Police Department enough time to review the renewal application.

The Tycoon did succeed two weeks ago in getting the City Council to make an exception and put the tavern’s expedited request for a license renewal on the council agenda for discussion.

In the council discussion, though, Police Chief Greg Graham unveiled his new thinking about taverns in need of an alcohol license that also are in the habit of attracting police officers to their establishments.

Upon hearing that police were called to the bar 17 times this year — and the bar was open only a couple evenings a week — the council denied The Tycoon any special treatment. The bar closed — including for the nice revenue-producing day of St. Patrick’s Day — for a couple weeks until the Police Department could review the tavern’s license in the timeline set out in city policy.

The review is complete and The Tycoon now is open under what the Police Department calls a six-month probationary license.

The conditions of probation are … well, they are designed to modify behavior.

For instance:

The Tycoon must pay $2,875 to the city for the 23 hours of investigative work required by the Police Department to determine that The Tycoon didn’t deserve a new liquor license because of the number of police calls to its establishments. That’s 23 hours at $125 per hour.

The Tycoon must have an “adequate number of appropriately trained personnel,” as approve by the Police Department, at all times. The staff should wear identifying shirts that say staff or security. This staff is there to check identifications, to make sure fire-code occupancy limits are followed, to prevent serving people already drunk and to prevent loitering outside the establishment.

The Tycoon should consider a dress code, a cover charge and the use of an electronic metal detector.

The Tycoon shall implement an action plan to immediately reduce the number of police calls for fight, disturbances, assaults, weapons, intoxication, drugs and public urination.

Within six months, The Tycoon will seek to reduce the number of police calls to the tavern to no more than one a week.

During the first month of reopening, the Police Department will bill The Tycoon $125 an hour for any police call over two a week, and after the first month, The Tycoon shall pay $125 an hour for any call over one a week.

The tavern also will pay a $63 “prisoner cost” for each arrest made at the bar.

Police Lt. Tom Jonker told the City Council last week that The Tycoon’s owner, Tim Bushaw, had agreed to work with the Police Department to reduce police calls to the tavern in exchange for a new probationary liquor license.

“The chief is adamant,” Jonker said on Monday. “It’s a privilege not a right to sell alcoholic beverages, and you need to be a good business person and do the right thing and fix errors and correct things that are wrong.”

On April 8, the City Council will hold a public hearing on the liquor license at Brick’s, a downtown bar down Second Avenue SE from The Tycoon. The Police Department is recommending that a new license be denied to Brick’s.