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Kansas City Council Revives Failed Ordinance, Loosens Restrictions On Who Can Serve Liquor

Lisa Rodriguez
KCUR 89.3
On Thursday, the Kansas City Council loosened restrictions on who can sell liquor, just a week after defeating a similar proposal.

People who have been convicted of certain felonies will soon have a chance to get a job serving alcohol in Kansas City.

The Kansas City Council approved changes to the liquor card program on Thursday, just a week after voting the proposal down.

Mayor Pro Tem Scott Wagner said the inital defeat was a frustrating moment, both for him and the people who voted against the changes.

“We spent a whole lot of time, and in the end accomplished nothing for anybody,” Wagner said.

The compromise measure loosens restrictions on who can serve liquor in Kansas City, while keeping in place restrictions for people who have been found guilty of certain violent crimes such as rape or murder.   

Currently, anyone who sells booze in restaurants, bars, liquor stores or stadiums must submit to a background check and pay a $40 fee to get a liquor card. Certain ex-offenders are barred from getting a card.

The topic inspiredpassionate debate from both sides during a committee hearing. 

Supporters of the current rules say people convicted of rape or assault should not be working in a setting where people get drunk, believing the temptation to re-offend would be too strong.

But others argue there’s no evidence that cities who don’t require permits have a higher rate of assaults by bar or restaurant employees. And advocates say the city shouldn’t create more barriers for employment for ex-felons who want to re-enter the workforce, especially in an industry with the potential to make good money from tips.

Under new rules, most people found guilty of nonviolent felonies would be able to get a liquor card. Ex-offenders convicted of assault or robbery would have to wait five years before becoming eligible. And people convicted of murder, rape or kidnapping would still be banned from serving alcohol.

The new rules eliminate the liquor card requirement for people who work in stadiums.

“That is such a controlled environment where there are so many people around you, that it would seem really difficult to abuse that,” Wagner said.

While not everyone on the council got the ordinance they wanted, councilwoman Jolie Justus said it's a step closer to the original goal.

“Many of us wanted to make sure that we removed that barrier for employment that was in place, and while it didn’t go as far as a lot of us on the council wanted, it is a significant step forward for individuals who are trying to get a job,” Justus said.

The new rules will take effect Dec. 17.

Lisa Rodriguez is a reporter and the afternoon newscaster for KCUR 89.3. Follow her on Twitter @larodrig

Slow news days are a thing of the past. As KCUR’s news director, I want to cut through the noise, provide context to the headlines, and give you news you can use in your daily life – information that will empower you to make informed decisions about your neighborhood, your city and the region. Email me at lisa@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @larodrig.
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