Businesses must police sidewalks

Language, dress code must be enforced in outside seating areas

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COEUR d'ALENE - The city of Coeur d'Alene added some rules to its outdoor food and alcohol serving policy Tuesday night to try and clean up behavior around bars and restaurants with seating on public sidewalks.

The changes require businesses that have the outdoor permits to play a more active role in policing unacceptable behavior in their own designated areas on public sidewalks.

Owners now have to crack down on patrons who are swearing or dressed inappropriately - without shoes or shirts - in their chained-off areas.

Also, bars or restaurants with roll-up doors, like garage doors, will have to be shut by 11 p.m., the cutoff hour for outdoor drinking. Chairs outdoors will have to be stacked at that hour, too.

The City Council approved the changes 4 votes to 2 votes, with councilmembers Dan Gookin and Steve Adams voting against the measure.

Adams called the changes heavy-handed and premature, since the downtown bar dance club Icon, which accounted for some of the police calls, was sold this year.

He said the changes shouldn't be implemented until after the city has time to study statistics from this summer, while Gookin said the city shouldn't police what language people use.

"The government does not have the power to regulate what people say," he said.

But City Attorney Mike Gridley classified the rules as terms of lease agreement for the commercial businesses, and the changes passed with the goal of improving the culture around bars and restaurants at night.

Tweaks to bars and outdoor seating policies started around three years ago after City Hall received complaints from people who didn't want to go downtown at night because of behavioral issues there.

The new changes would be mostly for educational purposes over punitive punishment, according to Police Chief Wayne Longo at a meeting last week, although repeat violators could lose their outdoor seating permits either temporarily or for the long haul.

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