After a alcohol compliance check carried on last Friday by the Neosho Police Department found eight incidences of selling alcohol to minors, the Neosho City Council addressed the issue and plans to seek stronger measures to address the problem. Council met on Tuesday at the council chambers.

After a alcohol compliance check carried on last Friday by the Neosho Police Department found eight incidences of selling alcohol to minors, the Neosho City Council addressed the issue and plans to seek stronger measures to address the problem. Council met on Tuesday at the council chambers.

Neosho Police Chief David Kennedy came before council to provide information about the compliance checks and offer insight into how to deal with the growing number of incidents.

"I think it's the worst we've seen it," Neosho Mayor Ben Baker stated. "We had eight violations, eight business that failed. I feel we need to do more about this, put more bite, more repercussions in place on this. We obviously have a growing problem."

Kennedy told council members that numbers of alcohol sales to minors have been increasing since 2016, when officers found two violations. Last year, in two separate compliance checks, nine violations were found, four in the first and five in the second. Friday's action found eight violations at eight businesses in Neosho. According to Kennedy, 25 businesses currently hold a license to sell or serve alcohol in Neosho. Twenty of those were checked last week.

"That's almost half that were not in compliance," he told the city council. "I think by the progression of what we've seen in the last two years, city council needs to take action. There are strict guidelines in place, that we have to follow. There are plenty of safeguards in place but we're still seeing an increase in the sale of alcohol to minors."

Neosho City Attorney Steve Hays provided a historical perspective on the issue.

"In the past, the state had 26 alcohol agents," Hays explained. "As the state budget got tight, one of the departments that the state has cut and cut is the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control. They now have five agents statewide and those are primarily administrative."

Hays noted that while the city does have an ordinance in place that allows for non-compliant businesses to be revoked, it fails to provide any real authority to the licensing clerk.

"What I would propose is to amend the amendment to clarify what action can be taken," he said. After previous discussion and consultation with Chief Kennedy, Hays suggested amendments to the ordinance that would include a four-step series of repercussions to businesses found to be in violation. Suggested response within a 24-month period for a first offense would be a stern warning letter to the business, a second offense would result in a three-day suspension of the liquor license, a third offense would result in a 30-day suspension of the liquor license, and a fourth offense would be a one-year suspension of the license.

"We think they would take note of it," Hays said.

Other possible actions could include sending any arrest and convictions of clerks selling liquor to minors to the state and the state could have the option of pulling the liquor license.

The consensus of the city council is to allow Hays to write changes to the existing ordinance and present it at a future meeting for consideration.

"I'm in favor of putting more bite in the law for this because we're seeing a trend and it's getting out of hand," Mayor Baker stated. "I agree you need a stair step approach to repercussions."

The council will act on the proposed amendments to the existing ordinance at a later date.