In an effort to deal with “problem” bars and taverns, the Office of Neighborhood Involvement (ONI) seeks to change the city’s time, place and manner (TPM) ordinance and add to the ordinance’s list of “nuisance” behaviors.

Proposed changes include adding failure to meet international fire code and issues related to overcrowding and exiting. But the changes also include adding behaviors and actions that are already illegal—including prostitution, illegal drug activity, and crimes that lead to serious threat or injury, such as homicide, aggravated murder, kidnapping and rape.

Friday, July 22 was the last day to submit comments on whether the ordinance should be changed and how.

The purpose of the proposed changes, said City Commissioner Amanda Fritz at a June 19 community meeting, is to give the city the ability to more effectively regulate liquor license-holding establishments that present livability and public safety concerns.

“It tries to get a little more control over establishments where alcohol is added to the mix,” says Fritz, who oversees the Office of Neighborhood Involvement. “People should have the comfort that they can go down to their local establishment and have a beer.”

During its meeting the same evening, the Hosford-Abernethy Neighborhood Association sent a letter to the Portland City Council supporting the changes. Linda Nettekoven, vice-chair of the neighborhood association, supports the changes not because they punish all liquor establishments, she says, but because they punish the few bars unable to control behavior of its customers.

“We have so many thousands of liquor licenses out there, and there are so few bad actors... It’s just those bad actors that are bad for the businesses around them as well as... for [their] neighbors,” she says.

The ordinance was established in 1999 and gives the city the ability to regulate establishments holding liquor licenses. It give neighbors an avenue to petition the city to deal with livability issues such as noise, public inebriation, and other problems related to bars and stores that carry alcoholic beverages.

The ordinance give neighbors an avenue to petition the city to deal with livability issues such as noise, public inebriation, and other problems related to bars and stores that carry alcoholic beverages.

Currently, there are nine designated nuisance behaviors under the ordinance, including disorderly conduct, drinking alcohol in parks, noise from amplified music, shots fired, vomiting in public, and blocking vehicle traffic.

“All nuisance activities have to be related to the patrons or employees of the place,” says Theresa Marchetti, the city’s liquor licensing specialist.

An establishment receives a violation if three nuisance behaviors occur within 30 days. The bar owner must respond to ONI within 10 days of receiving notice of the violation. The bar can then create anabatement plan detailing how it will cut down on the problems. The abatement plan lasts for 90 days. If the bar continues to be non-compliant, it can be temporarily shut down or have its liquor license revoked.

According to Marchetti, between 60 and 70 percent of violating bars successfully meet the criteria set out in the abatement plan. The average cost to the city to go through the abatement process is between $9,000 and $11,000.

Marchetti says the changes are necessary is that the number of establishments with liquor licenses have increased by 26 percent since 2002. With that increase, Marchetti says, also comes an increase in nuisance-related problems.

One reason ONI is pursuing the ordinance change is because efforts to change how local governments regulate liquor license-holding establishments have failed at the state level. The City of Portland, neighborhood associations and other constituencies pushed the passage of House Bill 3295, a bill introduced in the Oregon Legislature that would have allowed law enforcement to temporarily close bars or taverns for up to 72 hours after serious and violent events, but the bill never made it out of committee.

Once comments are received, Marchetti says that ONI will finalize its proposal regarding how the ordinance should change. A presentation will then be made to the City Council, which must vote to amend the ordinance. That presentation has not yet been scheduled.