In the words of Rodney King, "Can’t we all just get along?"
That’s how Westport businessman Bill Nigro feels about the recurring weekend night raids on bars and restaurants in Westport spearheaded by KC Liquor Control and backed by uniformed members of the Kansas City Police force.
Totally unnecessary, Nigro says.
Task forces of police and badge-toting officials descend on local establishments during prime time weekend business hours, demanding to examine their liquor, food and health licenses. All the while, scaring off customers, interrupting the flow of business – and in at least one case – not allowing a customer to enter the business.
"I know the doorman at The Union of Westport has had to produce his liquor card for either police or Liquor Control at least three times in the last three weeks," Nigro says. "How often do you get asked to see your driver’s license? Places in Westport get checked almost every month. They want to see our business licenses. They want to see employee’s liquor cards. They want to close us down. I don’t understand."
Instead of making a dramatic show of force over minor paperwork, why not just check the records? Nigro asks.
"They’ve got computers, they should be able to punch a few buttons and see if we’re behind on our licenses," Nigro says. "Instead they come in on a Friday or Saturday night when things are the busiest and we have to pull the licenses down off the wall so they can look at them.
"Saturday night an entourage of liquor and police officers – maybe eight people – were going door-to-door checking primarily bars, checking licenses. And at Union, a patron tried to walk in and the policeman at the door said he couldn’t. So then, I walked in and one of the policemen knew me so they didn’t say anything. But it’s bullshit – I got mad – and that’s why I went in. They have absolutely no business stopping somebody from walking into a place unless there’s a crime happening."
If Liquor Control has to do the license checks live, "Why don’t they do it on a weekday afternoon if they want to waste their time?" Nigro says. "Or they could have somebody sit on a computer and see who’s behind on their license, then give them a courtesy call instead of a raid with six to eight people coming into your place on a Friday or Saturday night and making a spectacle.
"Two months ago they did it with 10 people at 10 p.m. And I saw them in Martini Corner that same night at Martini Corner’s prime time. And I said to one of the vice agents, ‘Hey, did you catch anybody?’ And he said, ‘Not yet. But it’s still early.’
"I mean, everybody that’s there is wondering what’s going on. That maybe they shouldn’t come in. Why the show of force? They could do this with one officer. What are we gonna do, attack ’em? Instead of wasting eight people, they could be patroling the parking lots and the perimeter of the entertainment areas where the thieves and opportunists are out robbing people. Why not go after the real crime instead of us?"
Nigro’s bottom line: "I’m sick of it. We’re the ones paying the taxes and the guys from the city coming in shaking us down own 70 percent of the biggest competitor we have ( the Power & Light District). Why do we get the hassle and the P&L gets the money?"