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Kansas City Council Hears More On Controversy Over Liquor Cards

Zenoir/Creative Commons

The tussle between community groups and bar owners in Kansas City over background checks for servers will continue for at least another week.

The city council's Neighborhood and Public Safety Committee has been struggling over various proposals that range from doing away with liquor cards to easing restrictions on who can sell alcohol to not changing a thing.

The hearing Wednesday leaned heavily toward not making a change. Eslun Tucker, a South Kansas City Alliance board member, was worried about sex offenders serving liquor. She equated bartending with a job caring for children. "We wouldn’t have a pedophile go and work in a daycare,” she said.

Jessica McClellan, who runs Hope & Help, an organization that supports sexual assault survivors, said there may be "great temptation" for those serving liquor to re-offend. “This can be a direct threat to the community, not only to women but to men and children as well.”

“It is our hope that sanity will prevail and that this movement will not go forward,” said Ben Wearing from the Center Planning and Development Council in south Kansas City.

Bar owners are fighting hard to repeal the liquor card law. "The card doesn't prevent anything from happening," said Bill Nigro, who owns the building in which Westport Saloon is located. “Maybe they ought to make all the cable people who keep coming into your home (get a card)? Or how about the plumbers or electricians? Nobody checks any of them,” he told KCUR.

Currently, the most serious felons are banned for life while other felons either have to wait three or five years to be eligible for a liquor card.

One compromise would drop the liquor card requirement for people who work in liquor stores since an employee couldn't tamper with someone's drink.  Another proposal would drop the liquor card requirement for people serving drinks at Kauffman Stadium, Arrowhead or Sprint Center.

The council disagrees about what to do. Mayor Pro Tem Scott Wagner, who is running for mayor, wants to drop the 70-year-old law. Public Safety Committee Chair Alissia Canady, also a mayoral candidate, seems to be leaning toward holding on to some if not all the restrictions.

The committee will probably take up the issue again next week.

Correction: Bill Nigro's relationship to Westport Saloon was clarified. 

Sam Zeffis KCUR's metro reporter. You can follow Sam on Twitter @samzeff

You deserve to know what your taxpayer dollars are paying for and what public officials are doing on your behalf – I’ll work to report on irresponsible government spending in the Kansas City area and shed light on controversies that slow government down. And when you hear my voice in the morning, you know you’re getting everything you need to start your day. Email me at sam@kcur.org, find me on Twitter @samzeff or call me at 816-235-5004.
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