The Kansas City Council’s Public Safety Committee voted 3-2 on Wednesday to slightly relax the city’s liquor card requirement, but restaurant industry representatives said it wasn’t nearly what they wanted.
The measure goes to the full City Council on March 26.
For years, Kansas City has required thousands of employees seeking to work in establishments that sell alcohol to get a liquor card, which costs $42 for three years and ensures the city does a criminal background check. The card has been required for everyone from stock clerks to bartenders and waiters.
The restaurant industry had urged the City Council to do away with the liquor card requirement, calling it an overly burdensome regulation that isn’t used in Lee’s Summit or many other Missouri-side communities, nor on the Kansas side. They said that employers already screen the people they hire and that the card was an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy for the vast majority of people who aren’t criminals.
But Regulated Industries manager Jim Ready said his division identified 54 people last year who had lied on their liquor card application and had criminal pasts, including some with violent offenses.
“It’s not that we’re picking on this industry,” Ready said, adding that the card helps protect public safety.
The committee on Wednesday narrowly approved chairman John Sharp’s proposal to relax the requirement slightly. Sharp advocated eliminating the liquor card for people who unload trucks or who stock displays, but he still wants the background check for everyone dealing with the public to prevent predators from preying on unsuspecting customers.
“We tried to do something that will ease at least some of the industry’s concerns while still protecting public safety,” he said.
Jason Pryor, government affairs chairman for the Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association, said the changes don’t address the industry’s primary concerns.
“The innocent still have to prove their innocence,” he said.