Hidden Editorial: Bar District Safety

This editorial appeared in the Scottsdale Republic today, and was presumably written by Grant Martin. My comments are inserted in bold.

Bar-security proposal a long-overdue step in right direction

For far too long, one of Scottsdale’s most important industries has gone unregulated and overlooked to an alarming degree.

Rest assured, it’s not tourism; the Convention & Visitors Bureau develops and scrutinizes its information with near-neurotic fervor.

I can’t understand how a major newspaper can chronically publish information that is patently false. A city treasurer’s analysis from two years ago clearly showed hard financial data that the bar district is a money-loser for Scottsdale. The incremental public safety expense is greater than added tax revenue. Bars are NOT an “important industry,” in Scottsdale, let alone “one of the MOST important.”

Nightlife establishments in Scotts­dale, on the other hand, have been able to operate with nearly the same autono­my as steel mills during the Industrial Revolution.

Bars that submitted their security plans 10 years ago haven’t had them re-evaluated by the city since. Some didn’t even have such plans. Guidelines for how many security officers were required to be on hand, even for the city’s most popular nightclubs, were nonexistent.

All of this was exposed about six months ago, when a security officer was fatally stabbed at a downtown es­tablishment named Martini Ranch. The tragedy gave Mayor Jim Lane the im­petus and political capital to pursue comprehensive changes in how Scotts­dale’s nightclubs protect their patrons and employees.

The resultant proposed ordinance — which is still evolving; no vote will be taken on it until later this year — was presented for discussion at Monday’s City Council meeting, perhaps prompt­ed by another stabbing at Martini Ranch on June 24. It was prepared, Lane’s Chief of Staff J.P. Twist said at the meeting, after a series of meetings with local law enforcement and bar owners.

The ordinance is comprehensive in seeking to ensure improved communi­cation between bars and the Scottsdale Police Department, while explicitly addressing the lax training and on-site presence requirements for the city’s nightlife establishments.

Security plans would undergo man­datory, regular review, as prescribed by the ordinance. Bars would be re­quired to staff at least one security officer per 50 patrons. Those officers would need to be trained in crowd safe­ty and de-escalation techniques. Bars with recurring violent incidents would be forced to hire more security.

These are all logical, eminently rea­sonable changes — but they don’t go far enough, according to Councilman Bob Littlefield, who dismissed the proposed measure as a “PR thing” at Monday’s meeting.

The ordinance is “too little, too late, and too weak,” he added.

It’s true that the proposal may lack the kind of dire repercussions Little­field and others might want negligent establishments to suffer. But to adhere to that reactive mentality is to forget that the foremost priority of this ordi­nance is to keep Scottsdale’s residents and visitors safe, not put bars out of business. Besides, the publicity that accompanies two stabbings in a short amount of time is likely to take a great­er toll than any bureaucratic action [emphasis added].

Unfortunately, violence is an occa­sional but inevitable by-product when young people and alcohol mix. Scotts­dale could require the strictest security in the country at its nightclubs and still have to cope with incidents such as those at Martini Ranch.

But such measures would be unrea­sonable, not to mention damaging to the city’s reputation. After all, this is Scottsdale, not Sing Sing.

If you are worried about Scottsdale’s reputation, back up two paragraphs and tell me how much good PR we got from two stabbings, one of them fatal.

The ordinance might not be popular with everyone, but it’s undoubtedly a sorely needed, long-overdue step to­ward accountability in the city’s bar district.

Unfortunately, the larger less here is completely missed by the Scottsdale Republic editors. The drastic increase in violent crime in the bar district is a direct result of calculated action by Mayor Lane and the city council majority to ignore warnings from residents, and to ignore basic principles of city planning and zoning by building the largest concentrations of liquor licenses in the whole state.

There are only two ways to fix the problem. 1) Stop approving MORE bars, in violation of Scottsdale’s General Plan, and, 2) Yes, thin the herd by revoking the conditional use permits of the bad actors.

It isn’t a “free market” or “property rights” issue if those bar owners and property owners are violating the law.

The bar district was built up over the last two or three years for only two purposes: 1) To enhance property values mostly for one property owner who, 2) Contributed healthily to city council political campaigns and garnered many more contributions from associates.

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