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Raising the bar

by Tom Hasslinger
| December 28, 2010 8:00 PM

COEUR d'ALENE - Wanna serve? Pass a course.

Need a ride? Wait in the designated area.

The city of Coeur d'Alene is considering a pair of rule changes it hopes makes downtown's nightlife a little safer.

The first is to establish an evening taxi parking, pick-up and drop off zone on the east side of Fourth Street between Sherman and Front avenues. The second is to require bar and restaurant servers to pass a certified alcohol training course to dish out drinks.

"This is basically an option, an effort, a try," said Mike Kennedy, city councilman, on the city's attention to downtown safety. "If it doesn't work we can" change it.

Taking up around five parking spots on Fourth Street, the taxi area would be designated for cabs every day from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. It would act as a safety measure by preventing double parking, not to mention group congestion in front of downtown bars, said Police Cpt. Steve Childers.

Requiring bar and restaurant staff to pass a certified safety course on the dangers of over serving and underage drinking is part of the plan. Training programs, such as Training for Intervention Procedures (TIPS) that offer online certification, have been adopted in Boise. That could be Coeur d'Alene's route, although the city is still considering its options, Childers said.

"We already see it happening," he said of bars already having staff pass it. "So I don't look at this as a bad thing."

The TIPS website offers classes for $40. It describes TIPS as a "skills-based training program designed to prevent intoxication, drunk driving and underage drinking by enhancing the fundamental "people skills" of servers, sellers and consumers of alcohol."

Servers would have 60 days to get their certificate.

"That's fine, that's common sense," said Mike Lyon, co-owner of the Moose Lounge, on the proposed requirement for the course. "We don't want to over serve anyway ... I can understand it for safety reasons, but what problem are they going to solve" with a taxi stand?

Last year, the City Council enacted a few rule changes aimed at keeping downtown safe at night. The city pulled back its outdoor drinking curfew to 10 p.m. from 11 p.m., required bars and restaurants keep their outdoor tables from reaching too far out on sidewalks, and increased police foot patrols downtown.

Those changes came in the wake of complaints City Hall fielded from citizens worried about downtown's safety, including, but not limited to, a couple of high profile incidents involving guns and alcohol at the end of 2009 and early 2010.

This year, with fewer incidents reported downtown, it extended the outdoor drinking curfew to its original 11 p.m. time.

But the police department did say that the new rule changes would be convenient ways to prevent altercations downtown. The certificate course, however, would be a citywide requirement. Violators could be ticketed with a misdemeanor fine.

"We're all for it. It doesn't matter where you're at," said Teresa Capone, owner of Capone's on Fourth Street, just outside downtown's border. "The better educated your servers are, the better they can educate their customers. I think it's all a good thing."

But, she added, she hopes it wouldn't be a financial burden for the establishments as they try to make ends meet.

"It's like anything," she said. "If it gets too expensive, that's when it doesn't get done."

The proposed changes will go before the City Council at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 4, in the Community Room of the Coeur d'Alene Public Library.