Bar owners say drunk driving enforcement is hurting businessSix bar owners and managers attended Wednesday night’s city council work session to complain about how often police pull over customers and staff especially in the late night hours.
By: Emily Zimmer, Rosemount Town Pages
The Rosemount Police Department has a reputation, and according to some bar owners it’s killing their businesses. Six bar owners and managers attended Wednesday night’s city council work session to complain about how often police pull over customers and staff especially in the late night hours.
Carbone’s Pizza owner Dave Landgrebe said he feels like his customers and staff have been harassed by the city’s police officers and that because of it he’s losing business. He told the council officers sit in the Shenanigan’s parking lot and wait for people to leave any of the downtown establishments. He added that police will pull people coming out of their parking lot for trivial reasons such as a burned-out license plate light or an item hanging on the rearview mirror. In some cases, Landgrebe accused officers of making up reasons to pull people over.
“No one comes to town anymore because of it,” said Landgrebe.
Rosemount VFW manager Steve Poppler said he thinks the police department does a good job protecting the city but believes excess traffic stops have affected the VFW’s business. Poppler said many of his employees have been stopped, too.
“I wouldn’t be here unless this was a problem,” said Poppler.
Linda Young, who owns Rudy’s Eye Grill, said nearly every employee who works later shifts has been pulled over. She said her manager, who often leaves the restaurant after 11 p.m., has been pulled over five times, yet never received a ticket.
Young said many of her customers have complained about police officers pulling them over for superficial reasons, then asking if they’ve been drinking. She said the frequency of the stops has definitely cost her business. Young said this has been a problem since the restaurant opened six years ago.
“They are intimidated by it. Having a beer or two or a glass of wine is not a crime,” said Young.
Young said the loss of business has put Rudy’s at risk of closing. The other bar owners expressed similar sentiments.
Police chief Gary Kalstabakken said officers have not been given a directive to increase drunk driving enforcement. But he said it’s not unusual to ask someone where they’ve been and whether they’ve been drinking are not unusual when they’re out late at night.
“The questions are a common practice, especially after a certain time of night,” Kalstabakken told the council.
Kalstabakken said police do pull people over for smaller issues because statistics suggest that if motorist on the road late at night have been drinking.
Kalstabakken said police officers can not make up reasons to pull over motorists. He asked Landgrebe and the others in attendance to give him specific dates and times of pull overs so that he can check video and sound recordings to make sure officers had legitimate reasons to stop people.
“All the employees (getting stopped) trouble me,” Kalstabakken told the council.
Stops of employees are not always fruitless, though. Lieutenant Jewel Ericson said employees from a number of establishments have been cited for drunk driving while leaving work.
Kalstabakken acknowledged that police spend time parked in the lot at Shennanigan’s. He said over the last several years there have been a number of incidents there and police are trying to protect the area.
Kalstabakken said while the department has quite a few drunk driving arrests each year, it is not the highest in cities of comparable size. He said the city averages 150 DWI arrests a year. In 2007 the department had its highest number of arrests with 257.
“The intent is not to harass people,” said Kalstabakken.
So far this year the department has had a large number of arrests. Kalstabakken said since December the department has had 44 DWI arrests.
“There has been no change in policy. Numbers ebb and flow,” said Kalstabakken.
The council directed Kalstabakken to look at video and sound recordings to ensure the quality of the stops being made. The council also directed staff to put the issue on their next work session agenda to discuss it again.