Licensing Commission Takes Up Video Issues

Over the past several months, the Licensing Commission has been faced with more issues concerning working surveillance cameras for licensees than it has complaints about over-serving or rowdy behavior at local establishments.

At last week’s monthly meeting, the commission called for a conference with the Hampton Inn on Second Street regarding a camera issue, and held a disciplinary hearing for a past camera issue at La Esquina Mariachi Restaurant at 170 Washington Ave.

Under the city ordinance, establishments with liquor licenses must have a working video camera system that can archive 30 days worth of video.

The commission voted to close the public hearing and not dole out any disciplinary action for La Esquina Mariachi.

The hearing stemmed from an incident earlier this fall when the police requested video from the restaurant to investigate a potential crime in the area.

However, according to police, the restaurant was not able to provide the needed video in a timely manner.

Representatives for La Esquina Mariachi noted that there may have been a language barrier issue with the initial request. They added that they corrected the issues with the camera system and that the police department has inspected it.

The restaurant has not been before the Licensing Commission for other issues, according to Chair Marnie MacAlpine.

“Seeing as this is the first time being before us and they appear to have reacted quickly to make sure they fixed things, I don’t see a reason for this to go any further,” said MacAlpine.

The incident at the Hampton Inn fell into more of a gray area, with the commission requesting representatives come before it for a conference.

Once again, the issue revolved around a video surveillance issue, with police claiming that they requested video from the hotel regarding a police investigation. In this case, the hotel requested a subpoena for the video, according to police.

However, assistant city solicitor Peter Christopher noted that while the Licensing Commission approved a beer and wine license for the hotel last month, the hotel has not officially received the license from the state.

With the liquor license not in hand, Christopher said the hotel did not technically fall under the ordinance requiring the video surveillance.

However, several commission members were not pleased that the hotel did not cooperate with police less than two weeks after being granted a beer and wine license.

“This is completely disrespectful to this commission,” said member Emily Cherniack.

Commission member Mike McAteer asked if there was any way the commission could go back and rescind the approval for the beer and wine license.

Christopher cautioned against taking too drastic of an action, given the current status of the license.

“However, I think it is within your power to potentially call them about the issue and notify them that … in the spirit of what we are trying to do, that if they were a licensed establishment, (they would be expected) to have the video turned over,” said Christopher.

The commission agreed to call the Hampton Inn for a conference.

MacAlpine noted that the commission has faced a number of issues with businesses and licensees lately concerning video surveillance.

“This protects the business owners, it protects our residents, and it helps our police department do their job and hopefully to take prompt action to prosecute people who are doing things improperly in our community,” said MacAlpine.

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