Downtown pub owners must be responsible for behavior of patrons

Published 8:33 am Monday, December 17, 2018

The Elizabethton City Council voted this past week to amend the city ordinance to allow the operation of pub bars in the downtown, paving the way for the proposed opening this spring of the Riverside Taphouse at the intersection of E. Elk Avenue and N. Riverside Drive. Others are sure to follow.
Already, a restaurant in that block is selling beer with its pizza.
The business owners’ confidence and willingness to invest in the downtown is commendable, but many think a taproom is out of line with the town’s current character — and what the community wants the town to become.
We can appreciate that City Council is seeking to expand business ventures in the downtown, but again, many in the community are unsure if this is the way to go. The result could be rowdy patrons, who not only endanger themselves and others, but often spill out into adjacent downtown neighborhoods. Let’s not forget that located nearby are Edwards Island and the Covered Bridge Park.
The downtown is a favorite place for many to walk year round. The sidewalks are well-lit. It is safe, and quiet. Will it remain that way with pubs and bars?
Noise and rowdiness are what often happens when young adults come together at a place lubricated by substances that impair judgment, not to mention motor control.
There are some tough questions that must be answered up front. Will the pub owners allow patrons to drink to the point of intoxication or severely impaired judgment? And who will be held responsible when their behavior gets out of hand?
We know there are some restaurants in town who limit the number of beers a patron can be served, which in our opinion is being responsible. Responsible consumption should not be left entirely in the hands of the patron.
The City may end up doing more patrolling in this area, which brings another question: Why should public funds be spent policing customer behavior that should be the responsibility of the private business owner to control?
For drivers who get behind the wheel intoxicated, there are already much steeper fines, automatic jail time and loss of driving privileges for DUI.
Should rowdiness occur in the downtown because of pubs, tougher laws should be passed making it a criminal offense to be drunk in public and start taking away the licenses of restaurant and pub owners whose patrons are convicted. If the City does that we’re pretty sure we’d see drink limits. At the least, we’d support a minimum 72-hour hold on anyone arrested in an impaired condition.
We hope that the pub is a good business venture on the part of the owners, and we hope the patronizing public will be responsible customers. In the end, we hope it will be good for the community and that we are proven wrong.
However, at this point we remain skeptical. We already have a drug epidemic in Elizabethton, resulting in increased crime, such as theft and shoplifting.
Approving pubs in a downtown which is just now finding its way out of years of economic and social slumber could saddle area residents, businesses and the city with a hangover. We sure hope not!

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