COEUR d'ALENE - The city of Coeur d'Alene wants to add some rules to its outdoor food and alcohol serving policy to help clean up behavior around bars and restaurants with seating on public sidewalks.
The changes would clarify expectations for businesses that serve outdoors thanks to the city's food and alcohol outdoor service policy, which has been changed several times the last three years.
"It's a balancing act," said Mike Kennedy, councilman, on attempting to clean up late-night behavior outside establishments that serve alcohol, versus coming down too heavy handed on businesses. "And it's not an easy one."
The proposed additions would require businesses that have the outdoor permits to play a more active role in policing unacceptable behavior in their own designated areas. So owners would have to crack down on patrons who are swearing or dressed inappropriately - without shoes or shirts - in their chained-off areas.
Left off the proposal was banning smoking in the outdoor seating area. Smokers have to smoke somewhere, officials said.
"We're not picking on downtown; we're not picking on anybody," said Ron Edinger, councilman, who recommended the smoking ban be left off the policy changes. "It applies to everyone."
But the policy changes say that roll-up doors, like garage doors some bars have, 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 goal is to improve the culture around bars and restaurants at night, officials said.
"I think it makes for a better downtown," said Bill Reagan, Coeur d'Alene Resort general manager. "I think it's an issue and it should be dealt with."
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, although repeat violators could lose their outdoor seating permits either temporarily or for the long haul.
But some said the changes come across as "heavy-handed" and unnecessary.
Dave Pulis, co-owner of the Moose Lounge, said keeping customers from swearing up a storm or asking them to wear shirts is already a goal of waiters and bouncers who work there. The policy changes seem more a common sense approach that's already practiced.
"Do they need to be written down here?" he asked. "I just think we're getting ganged up on here."
The city's General Services Committee, a subcommittee of the City Council, recommends the full council adopt the policy changes at its Tuesday, March 6 meeting in the Community Room of the public library.
Councilman Steve Adams voted against the measure, echoing Pulis's stance that the changes seem unnecessary and "burdensome."
"It really seems heavy-handed," he said.
He said - as did Terry Cooper of the Downtown Association - that the sale of the downtown dance club and sports bar, the Icon, would lessen the need for more rules outside bars.
They said the establishment was a focal point for police presence because of the younger crowd it attracted, and Adams wanted to table the policy changes until studying a summer's worth of stats without the Icon.
Jerry Goggin, who owned the Icon, declined to comment Monday.