The Red Lodge City Council is debating the validity of the present open container law in the town.
The law, which prohibits a person having an open container of alcohol on a public way, street, alley, or sidewalk, came into effect after a riot broke out during 4th of July celebrations in 1974.
This new debate on the 39 year old ordinance started after the Carbon County emergency services asked the Emergency Services Committee, consisting of Chair Glory Mahan, Bill Larson and Bill Foisy, to update the open container and public intoxication ordinances.
During Tuesday’s discussion Alderman Mike Schoenike asked what there was to be “gained by having” this ordinance.
Mayor Brian Roat explained the history behind its inception but added that despite it’s effectiveness, “it is kinda of a nuisance for officers as they have to really police that. It’s a nit-picking thing.”
Roat suggested seeing how the public felt about it.
Schoenike added that there are other laws on the books that can deal with unruly people who are drunk and felt the current ordinance is “limiting responsible people to be responsible.”
“If my neighbor is across the street and I want to walk across the street with a beer in my hand, the way the ordinance is written I can’t walk across the street or as far as the sidewalk with my open beer. I have to look for those who might be looking,” he said.
Present at the meeting was Chuck Sallade who felt the ordinance is “punishing the majority in the hopes in stopping the minority for doing things we don’t find acceptable. What about a stronger penalty for public drunkenness? Promote more responsibility. This isn’t high crime.”
Schoenike urged on the side of caution about the public intoxication law.
“If someone is at a bar and has had too many drinks we don’t want laws in place that encourage them to do the wrong thing, we don’t want them in trouble with the law because they made the right decision to walk home and not drive,” he said.
Red Lodge citizen Betty Ansorge felt the ordinance was a good law because she had a “scary” experience on Main Street when “some one with a beer started flirting” with her.
“They followed me and I was scared,” she said.
A public meeting on the Open Container Ordinance will be held March 12 at 7 p.m. at City Hall. It will be placed early in the agenda.