In response to the stabbing death that happened in downtown Naperville this past weekend, one city councilman suggests the city needs to enforce liquor regulations more closely:
Councilman Doug Krause pointed out that the city has only shut down one bar for one day in the past five years due to a liquor license infraction, and that an ordinance passed last month will allow bars to stop serving food at 9 p.m.
“It’s becoming more of a Rush Street after 10 o’clock at night — it’s like Rush Street west,” Krause said Sunday night. “It’s been increasing over the last eight to 10 years. There are mobs out there.”…
“We had over 6,000 calls for police service in downtown Naperville last year. The problem is an enforcement problem,” Krause said referring to liquor law enforcement.
Councilman Grant Wehrli disagreed with Krause, calling his response a “knee jerk reaction to an event that is still under investigation.”
At the same time, this does lead to a larger issue that I hinted at on Sunday: how Naperville wants to balance being a cultural and entertainment center while also remaining family-friendly. On one side, having a lot of bars in a suburban downtown is not usually considered family-friendly. Particularly on warm summer nights, there are a lot of people who congregate in downtown Naperville late into the evening, including many teenagers and families, to partake of music, shopping, the Riverwalk, and family restaurants and eateries. This sort of violence is not clearly not helpful to maintaining this environment but even public drunkenness is not terribly conducive to this.
On the other hand, having a thriving restaurant and bar district can bring in a lot of tax revenue. Instead of residents going elsewhere (perhaps downtown Chicago even?), they spend their money out in downtown Naperville. Lots of suburban communities would love to have the problem that Naperville has had of not having enough parking spaces for all of the downtown visitors or having the kind of restaurants that exist in most suburbs only in shopping centers. The restaurants and bars help attract other businesses.
So how does a well-respected suburb balance these two interests? One of the worst things that could happen to the downtown is that it is branded “unsafe” and people turn away. At the same time, when there are plenty of people around and there is alcohol involved, it is really hard to stop everything bad from happening.