Friday, December 6, 2013
While everyone's favorite Elizabethan entertainment group has been given permission to resume its live spoken-word performances, the city ordinance that temporarily shut them down is still in place.
In other words, the City Council found a way to solve a problem without really solving the problem.
There is a lot of room for disagreement on this issue, but on one point there is no dispute: When a past council created a disbursement rule for bars with entertainment licenses, the members did not have Naked Shakespeare in mind.
What they were concerned with, and rightly so, were fights in and around bars between drunk people who came to the Old Port to listen to live music. Requiring 100-foot-buffers between establishments that have entertainment licenses was a way to keep some space between rowdy drunks. Police support the policy because officers have to wade into those fights, putting themselves at risk. A policy to limit those instances makes good sense.
But the council's chosen method doesn't. It's not the music that makes the barflies fight, it's their own bad judgment and the booze. The way to control fighting and excessive drinking is not to control music, but to go after the real causes.
The way to do that is to send a clear message to bar owners that they need a license to operate in the city and they could lose it if they don't operate responsibly. The ultimate penalty would be losing a liquor license, but a preliminary sanction could be revocation of an entertainment license.
Denying licenses based on geography diminishes the council's ability to influence the behavior of the bar owners. A better approach would be a quick hook for the bars that show they won't act responsibly.