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Single-Serve Liquor Banned to Stop Panhandlers

The Joliet City Council adopted new rules Monday that will cut off the sales of mini bottles of liquor and large single-serve containers of beer.

If banning single-serve beer and alcohol sales will help eliminate downtown panhandlers -- and the urination and litter that comes with them -- the Joliet City Council is ready to give it a try.

The ordinance, approved Monday with a 7-0 vote, was proposed by the Joliet Police Department as a way to make it more difficult for people to beg for money and then purchase/consume alcohol downtown. It's one of the problems often cited by people who say they don't like coming downtown to eat, drink or attend a show.

"We have a public perception problem," said police Sgt. Thomas Grutzius, who noted that Diocese of Joliet Bishop R. Daniel Conlon was accosted twice by panhandlers when he was downtown for a recent meeting.

The new rules, which kick in in mid-November, will prevent all sales of mini-bottles of liquor that are sold as single servings. However, they will remain legal if they're packaged by the manufacturer in groupings of four or more.

All single-serving containers of beer that are 24 ounces or less will also be banned. In the downtown downtown area districts, the ban is 40 ounces or less.

So that craft beer, which is often sold in single serving bottles, will not be affected, shoppers will be able to buy them warm and in six-pack containers that can be mixed and matched.

The goal is to limit the average consumer but to attack the sources of alcohol most favored by panhandlers, who otherwise cannot be punished without clogging up the jail or imposing fines that will never be collected, Grutzius said.

"We have issued numerous tickets to these (panhandlers) but they crumple them up, sometimes to our face. There's no teeth in (the law)," he said. "We're not talking about bottles of wine. We're talking about the quick hits, the 40-ouncers, the 24-ouncers."

If you "cut the head off the snake" by eliminating the source of the alcohol most favored by those who loiter downtown, you might just kill the problem, he said.

However, that doesn't necessarily mean the panhandlers will leave Joliet, Grutzius acknowledged. They may move to other neighborhoods or find ways to get around the new ordinance, perhaps by collecting money for longer periods of time to buy a pint or half pint, for example, or pooling money to purchase six-packs of beer.

There is also the question of a level playing field for liquor store owners. The panhandlers might still beg downtown but may walk to areas outside of the downtown or Cass TIF district to buy alcohol, thereby penalyzing store owners whose businesses are in those areas.

For those reasons, District 1 Councilman Larry Hug and District 5 Councilman Terry Morris pushed for a citywide ban on the sale of single-serve beer that was 40 ounces or less. Their effort to table the ordinance so that it could be rewritten to include an overall ban was rejected by the council majority.

In the end, Morris voted for the ordinance as written and Hug opted to vote "present" because he didn't want to vote down the other provisions included in the measure.

Among those provisions was the elimination of a Class I liquor license, meaning that bars east of Raynor Avenue will no longer have to have a kitchen in order to serve alcohol and will pay $200 less for a liquor license, the same as bars in other parts of Joliet.

The new rules also allow the police to issue tickets to minors found in hotel rooms where liquor is present. That should help reduce the problems that come when 21 years old or older rents a hotel room, buys alcohol and then invites underage drinkers to drink with them, Grutzius said.

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Infamous Steve September 18, 2012 at 03:03 PM
First let me say NOBODY from the west side wants to go to the eastside. Downtown Joliet is so ghetto and full of everyday trash like the people featured in the police blotters that there is no safe place left down there. Second out of all the times I have been downtown I saw one homeless man at like 2 A.M. Here is the thing though...this guy was a vietnam veteran in a wheelchair with NO LEGS. That is the head of the snake Joliet wants to cut off. Why doesn't the city try to help them instead of f^cking trying to make thier image look better? The city can spend what like $40 million on a transportation hub at the same time they just want to homeless to go die in a corner somewhere....as long as its not downtown!
John Roberts September 19, 2012 at 11:56 AM
They have a multi million dollar transportation station going up downtown,Their doing exactly what I said they were going to do.Run who ever they can that just hangs out downtown out of there.. Here is the thing about removing the 40oz... Now instead of one bottle being laid down or a can of beer drank your going to have people buying a 6 pack of beer sticking the beers in their pockets and walking around drinking and throwing beer cans all over the place.your going to have people drinking more beer than they would have just getting a 40oz. Regulate everything until one half of the nation is locked up and the other half watching over them...America becomes a prison with law after law after law..no one can remember all of the laws we have and the money from catching people from breaking the law does not benifit the community at all.it hurts it,removing drivers license,loss of jobs,loss of community traffic because you get labeled just like the other prison mentallity town " don't go through that town you'll get pulled over and harassed and treated like a criminal if you do" How many citizens know this saying.lol it is expressed more than what the officials know.This is what happens when you try to make the world into your image instead of realizing how it really is...
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