Omaha City Council Passes Alcohol Ordinance; Removes Fine

Nicole Ebat

OMAHA (KPTM) - The Omaha City Council approved an alcohol ordinance that would give the city council more control over problem businesses.

But an amendment that was approved got rid of the proposed alcohol impact zones and a $75 yearly fee.

The council voted 6-1, with Councilmember Ben Gray voting against the amended version.

The ordinance was aimed at so-called "nuisance bars" in Omaha.

"This is all about protecting our neighborhoods and one bad liquor establishment, one bad bar as we've seen can take a neighborhood down," said Chris Foster with the Gifford Park Neighborhood Association.

He's part of a collection of neighborhood associations that helped put together the amendment over the past several years.

The council did keep the public nuisance standards and the ability to revoke a business' certificate of occupancy if the business is deemed a "nuisance".

Several of them said they were glad the amendment went through, but think it now lacks the ability to effectively enforce the nuisance standards.

"I think it's a travesty that they didn't keep the fee," said Anthony Cato. "Maybe the overlay zones needed to be abolished, but they needed to keep the fee just to make sure everyone stays in compliance."

The idea of the fee originally was to have someone in law enforcement who could oversee the problems with a liquor outlet all the way to a resolution, including shutting it down if needed.

Members of the group say without that process, it may be difficult to enforce the amendment.

"The council members each have identified themselves as the person to contact if neighbors have problems that's really been the process in the past, it's not the most efficient," said Diane Riib with Project Mile. "Obviously it won't be consistent from councilmember councilmember and it really isn't a process, it simply is contacting your representative."

But council members say it'll still help to have local control over problem alcohol retailers.

"This is a substantial new authority we haven't had ever for the city to crack down on bad operators by having more local control and I think that's a big win for our neighborhoods," said Councilman Pete Festerson.