How About Accountability for Downtown Missoula Bar Owners?

by lizard

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.
16-3-301(4)(b) MCA

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.


  1. Buzz Feedback

    In CronyTown, accountability is for OTHER people.

  2. JC

    If someone went downtown just one weekend night, and video-taped what occurs outside bars on the sidewalks, streets and back-alleys of Missoula at closing time, and showed it to Council, maybe some of the members would get a sense of their — and downtown business owners’ — hypocrisy… not.

    You want accountability and responsibility? Demand that Missoula’s PD enforce open container and public intoxication, jaywalking, DUI, aggressive behavior and verbal assault laws, etc.

    If we get a sit law, it will be time to hold a sit-in on the sidewalks of Missoula in the grand old tradition of 60’s style sit-ins. Hand everybody a button to pin on saying “I have the right to sit here” and let the ACLU — whatever other first-amendment outfits that want — again prove to the powers-that-be that it is our constitutional right to protest unjust laws with a sit-in.

    • I think we should get rid of open container laws and bump up the fines for littering and public drunkenness. Open container for cars should still apply.

      I can’t tell you how many European countries I walked down the street in with a beer. I did it in Russia, I did it in China – no laws.

      Why shouldn’t someone be able to go get a bench next to the river and crack open a few beers? There’s a lot worse things they could be doing.

      Yeah, there’ll always be some people to screw it up. I think we should let people act responsibly until they screw up. And having an open beer in your hand while walking down a sidewalk isn’t an issue as far as I’m concerned.

      Having designated areas where you can drink outside at certain times and on certain days with the right business backing is an issue.

      What message does that send?




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