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Split City Commission OKs 'Party Bus' Ordinance

Police chief describes problems with groups of intoxicated and disorderly visitors that come in on charted vehicles. City officials don't agree on the proposed solution but pass it 4-3 on first reading.

Royal Oak City Commissioners agreed on the problem: increasing numbers of drunk partiers coming on chartered "party buses" breed disorderly behavior at downtown entertainment areas. But they couldn't agree on a solution to the problem during their four-hour meeting Monday night.

In the end, the commission approved 4-3 the first reading of a proposed ordinance that penalizes drivers or owners of the chartered vehicles with a civil fine up to $500, but only if they know about disorderly or illegal behavior on the vehicle and allow it. Mayor Jim Ellison and Commissioners Patricia Capello and Jim Rasor opposed the ordinance, while Commissioners Terry Drinkwine, Michael Andrzejak, Chuck Semchena and David Poulton voted to support it.

"I think the ordinance is too broad and would have a negative impact" on business, Ellison said during the discussion. 

Rasor agreed. "What this is going to do is tell people to spend their money elsewhere," he said.

Interim Police Chief Corrigan O'Donohue stated his case in asking for help in dealing with fights, indecent exposure and other disorderly conduct related to the stretch limousines and buses in which groups of people travel to Royal Oak's downtown, often drinking alcohol on their way.

"The bigger issue is people use (the party buses) as an excuse to get highly intoxicated before they arrive at their destination," O'Donohue told commissioners. Without being able to prohibit drinking in the vehicles, the chief said he looks at the proposed ordinance to "set the tone" that Royal Oak doesn't condone behavior that requires police resources and often results in arrests.

After hearing from a charted vehicle company owner and a party bus driver during public comment that such an ordinance would discourage them from bringing customers into Royal Oak, several of the commissioners pointed out that enforcement of the ordinance would be problematic.

Rasor peppered the police chief with questions about how to enforce the ordinance, then suggested "let's manage the problem instead of 'setting the tone'," before the vote.

City Attorney David Gillam, who drafted the proposed ordinance after months of discussions with police officials and the city's Liquor Control Committee, said the problem is not unique to Royal Oak but no other community has addressed it either.

"At least we'll have a tool to deal with the problem downtown," Semchena said in supporting the ordinance.

The matter is to go before the commission for a second reading at its next meeting, Nov. 14.

TJO October 18, 2011 at 10:33 AM
Who cares about families and public behavior, there's money to be made, that's all that matters.
Mike Ripinski October 18, 2011 at 11:58 AM
We are missing the bigger issue. When the drunks get off the bus at the end of the night many of them get into cars and drive home.
TJO October 18, 2011 at 12:04 PM
the mayors record speaks for itself, he repeatedly sides with private interests and business over the welfare of royal oak citizens.
Andy S. October 18, 2011 at 12:57 PM
God forbid someone would hire a limo and go out on the town and party... If you're going to have a "destination community" like we do in our downtown we're going to need a few cops around to keep the handful of idoits in line... Loosen up people.
RAM October 18, 2011 at 04:04 PM
And Andy can pay the extra taxes to make that happen, mine are high enough as it is. It's not an issue of being a destination community or "loosening up", large groups of rowdy drunken louts coming in to our community on party buses on weekends are causing problems, and it needs to be addressed. The downtown itself isn't the problem, I myself drink there a few times a week, it's the dbags who come in and cause problems that need to be dealt with. This ordinance isn't a perfect solution, but it's a good first step.
Dave Garr October 18, 2011 at 11:08 PM
The ordinance flat out sucks !! I am an owner and operator of a small limousine company that frequently (used to) take parties to Royal Oak. Limousines and party buses are a safe way to keep drunks off of the streets. Our drivers have enough to worry about with traffic, weather conditions and drunks walking in front of the vehicles at any moment to worry about babysitting the "adults" on board our vehicle. We are not providing the alcohol that they consume so how then can we be considered a party "host" ?? I am going to hold the city of Royal Oak responsible for any injuries incurred by my drivers when they tell a group of drunks that they cant go where they want to go and it turns ugly. Better yet, I'm just gonna suggest that we go to a community such as Novi that does not have a fun governor as a mayor.
Andy S. October 18, 2011 at 11:36 PM
As a small business owner in Royal Oak I find this all pretty sad... Send the bus loads of paying customers somewhere else ?... Why... because a few bad apples spoiled the whole barrel. There will still be problems with drunken idiots in Royal Oak as long as we have booze to serve. The limo and bus operators are not to blame.
Lurker October 20, 2011 at 03:39 PM
The RO Mayor is not a fan of this proposed ordinance. He knows what would happen if it passed. The party buses would stop coming to the city, losing business to the city. The RO Police Chief on the other hand, wants exactly that. He wants the party bus and business money completely gone. He has stated his belief that party bus clients don’t spend money in the city anyway because they’re already boozed up when they arrive. Not true. These clubs make big $$$ on cover charges alone within the first five minutes after a loaded party bus shows up. The patrons also spend money on drinks and food. The man’s a coward who doesn’t want himself, nor his officers to deal with the issues that WILL arise in a city that’s completely designed around a drinking, party atmosphere with a bar on every corner. His idea is to pass the buck by making someone else responsible for another person’s actions, while avoiding real police work. I’d like to hear what the Club Owners feel about this ordinance. They are the ones that would be losing the Royal Oak dollars if party bus companies avoid their clubs. I really don’t understand how this ordinance would accomplish the cities goal. Punishing the Limo companies and their drivers isn’t going to stop drunken idiots from continuing to act stupid. The only thing this law would accomplish is more of the same problems for the city...but with more fine money going into the cities pockets…coming right out of the limo companies wallets.
Nicholas October 28, 2011 at 02:08 AM
A prime example of over regulation and proof that the interim Police Chief needs to go as he obviously can't handle the duties of his job as so many other police departments across the country have no issue handling. This ordinance if passed will have 2 negative impacts. One that is fiscally important and the other that could criminally hold individuals responsible on the city level for the well being of the traveling public. First as an executive with a ground transportation company providing service to customers across the United States this would be the ONLY City to have such an ordinance. I can tell you that in our company's 20 years of experience we have NEVER had an issue in the City of Royal Oak. If this ordinance goes into effect we have made the necessary arrangements to advise all night on the town guests that we will no longer offer transportation to Royal Oak restaurants, bars, or entertainment venues and instead advise them on destinations in Birmingham, Novi, Mt. Clemens, and Detroit. This will create a non business friendly environment decreasing the tax revenue to the city and may even force some establishments out of business. These business's are paying the salaries of the police department and keeping the streets of Royal Oak safe. The most important negative impact will be the creation of not having a method for patrons to get home safely. Instead patrons will drive home drunk and it will be only a matter of time before the city has blood on their hands.
Nicholas October 28, 2011 at 02:13 AM
The Police Chief in my opinion is a liar as well. 99% of the time the customers are becoming intoxicated in the establishments in Royal Oak not the vehicle. Unfortunately we are the ones who are dealing with the results of the drinking going on in the city. My question is if someone takes a Smart bus, gets drunk in Royal Oak and causes a fight on the bus back home are you going to fine Smart?
Justin December 08, 2011 at 06:49 PM
Think of all the money the city would lose. How about the money from all the tickets written every night.. Dont "bite the hand that feeds you." Suck it up and deal with it!

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