How About Accountability for Downtown Missoula Bar Owners?
The owners of the Badlander and the Rhino support the Mayor’s version of the panhandling ordinances because they want to protect their paying customers from “solicitors”, the new euphemism for the chronically homeless. This term reflects the messaging from the business community that these ordinances are all about behavior and won’t selectively target specific groups of people, like those without homes. That’s bullshit, but let’s stick with the “behavior” thinking for a minute.
Another word batted around is accountability. The ordinances, it is claimed, are suppose to be tools of accountability for law enforcement. The overreach that undermines this claim is the inclusion of just sitting, sleeping, or lying on the sidewalk as excluded behavior.
Putting that aside, let’s apply the concept of accountability to downtown bar owners and their employees. I took a quick look at the Responsible Alcohol Sales and Training Program (PDF) and under “key laws” I found the Montana statute regarding selling alcohol to intoxicated people:
It is unlawful for any licensee, a licensee’s employee, or any other person to sell, deliver, or give away or cause or permit to be sold, delivered, or given away any alcoholic beverage to any intoxicated person or any person actually, apparently, or obviously intoxicated.
If downtown bars were fined every time they violated this statute, they would go bankrupt. But I guarantee Missoula would be a safer place if bar owners were held more accountable for the rampant binge-drinking they profit from, damn the personal consequences and costs.
And the costs, which I’ve written about before in greater detail, are staggering and bear repeating. This is a breakdown of the annual economic impact on just Montana:
Alcohol induced medical care: 100.7 million
Criminal justice system: 49.1 million
Early mortality/lost earnings; disease/vehicle accidents: 296.8 million
Lost productivity: 53.3 million
Treatment costs: 10.7 million
So yeah, let’s talk about accountability, downtown Missoula bar owners. Let’s talk about going after your profits for destroying people’s lives.
The only time you’ll catch me in a bar downtown these days is after a long week at work with co-workers. Our spot used to be the Rhino. I think it’s time we find a different spot.