City discusses ‘midnight’ bar law
Published: Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, September 5, 2012 00:09
Morgantown developers and business owners rallied at the city council meeting Tuesday to express concerns over proposed ordinances developed without consulting local businesses.
Council members recently discussed possible solutions to the growing number of incidences involving underage drinking and assaults.
Proposed resolutions include changing the "last call" time in the downtown bars, barring those under 21 from entering and allowing law enforcement inside on a regular basis.
The proposed ordinances surprised many business owners, including Morgantown developer Joe Panico, who recently developed Rocktop Bar & Grille.
"You may not like it, but we are the number one party school," Panico said. "You could kill downtown pretty easily by putting rules like these in place, and downtown is part of what makes us one of the best cities in the country – our uniqueness to entertain – and that normally doesn’t end at midnight."
Along with Panico, David Biafora, co-owner of Metro Properties, shared his concerns and offered ideas to the council.
"Instead of closing things down, how about opening things up?" Biafora said. "How about closing Chestnut Street for seven game days and selling eight or 10 bar permits for $500 to set tents up – that’s four or five thousand dollars that you could take in every game weekend."
Biafora suggested the idea because it offers a defined perimeter for police, which would keep customers downtown and out of apartments where incidents could occur.
"WVU is a great thing for our town, and you need to promote business," Biafora said. "If somebody doesn’t want to hear noise or partying, then move out of town;.This is not a retirement community."
Biafora and Panico both agreed council members need to sit down and listen to business owners before developing laws that affect the entertainment in Morgantown.
Council member Bill Byrne responded to the public portion of the meeting and said he agrees Main Street Morgantown, a non-profit organization dedicated to bettering downtown Morgantown, should put more bar and restaurant owners on their board to discuss these issues.
"These ideas to control the issues are just topics to bring up," he said. "I don’t have a packet of ordinances to introduce these things, but they need to be talked about and they need to be talked about by Main Street, bar and restaurant owners, by the city manager and city council and any concerned citizens in the neighborhoods."
According to Panico and Biafora, blame cannot be placed on the bars and underage drinking for these issues downtown.
"We can just randomly say that, but there have been no studies or data brought out, so there’s no reason to jump to conclusions," Panico said. "If we’re going to address this in the near future, let’s look at some real data and figure out how we can make the city better and come up with some solutions."
Biafora also wanted to be sure council members knew they didn’t show up to cause trouble.
"We’re here to help," he said. "We aren’t here to fight."
Panico also discussed an event at Rocktop Bar & Grille this weekend, where he said they will be embracing the number one party school reputation.
"We are embracing and promoting what we’re consistently the best at in this country," he said. "We’re not the best at academics, we’re not the best at these other things. They’re there and we’re happy with all that, but we’re the best at one thing. Let’s embrace it, promote it and manage it."