RIVERTON — The Riverton City Council has decided not to pass a new ordinance barring "habitually intoxicated persons" from purchasing alcohol in city limits.
The council considered the ordinance on third reading Tuesday.
The change would have made it unlawful to sell, give away or otherwise furnish alcoholic beverages to people declared habitually intoxicated under the terms of the ordinance.
It would have defined such a person as having been convicted of six or more criminal offenses in the past 180 days through the Riverton municipal court in which a judge determined the person was guilty of "being under the influence of alcohol to a degree that they were a danger to themselves or others at the time of the commission of the crime."
Anyone who furnished alcohol to someone on the list would have been subject to a fine of up to $750.
Councilman Mike Bailey said the punishment for selling alcohol to people on the list would put the burden on local business owners to address the issue of substance abuse in Riverton.
"It does not focus the problem on the people causing the problem," he said. "It focuses the problem on people trying to work and make a living, and do their business legitimately and legally. ... I think this is probably not a good idea, and I think we need to keep looking for better solutions."
Councilman Lance Goede, who is a member of the Solutions Committee that proposed the ordinance, countered that the city has tried "for years" to hold the people who would be placed on the habitually intoxicated list responsible or their own actions by putting them in jail or sending them to treatment facilities.
"That's not working," he said. "We need to broaden the scope, and we all need to be a part of the solution.”
Councilman Tim Hancock agreed that more people need to be involved in addressing public intoxication in Riverton, but he said he was uncomfortable with the idea of forcing business owners to adhere to the new ordinance in order to avoid a fine. Instead, Hancock asked business owners who sell alcohol in Riverton to stop serving people who clearly have a substance abuse problem.
"If you know somebody, you know their name, and you know they're being arrested .... Please on your own say, 'I'm not going to serve them,'" he said. "I don't think we have to have this ordinance in place to give you that out. Take it on your own."
In response, Goede said business owners who take it upon themselves to avoid serving alcohol to people with substance abuse issues aren't the targets of the ordinance.
"There are a number of businesses (that are) already doing this because they're good citizens and good business owners," he said.
"Unfortunately, there are businesses in the community that aren't. They're not good businesses. And this provides the opportunity to hold them accountable, when right now they won't hold themselves accountable."
After the ordinance failed -- with Goede and Councilman Kyle Larson voting for it and Councilwoman Rebecca Schatza and Mayor Lars Baker voting against it -- Baker said his main concern was that the change would open local businesses up to discrimination lawsuits.
"That would be the end of the business I think in many cases," he said.
"I just felt like we were setting people up for trouble, and I didn't want to do that."