May 13, 2014

City Council makes Old Town an entertainment district

It’s going to get a lot more expensive for Old Town scofflaws.

It’s going to get a lot more expensive for Old Town scofflaws.

The Wichita City Council unanimously signed off on an entertainment district designation for Old Town.

The designation, drawn up by the city’s legal staff working with Wichita police and the Old Town Association, will clear the way for Wichita police to tighten their grip on late-night carousers and traffic leaving Old Town bars and restaurants. It goes into effect May 23.

“It’s time, and the City Council knew that,” said Jason Van Sickle, president of the Old Town Association, who called the vote a big win.

“We’ve had great support, from the WPD, the City Council, across the city.”

The ordinance targets party-related legal issues: fighting, burglary, alcohol-related offenses. Get caught by police once, and face a $500 fine. Get caught twice, and it’s $1,000 and up to six months in jail.

Become a habitual offender, and merely stepping foot in Old Town could land you in jail. Judges could have the authority to “map” repeat offenders out of Old Town, making the offender’s presence in the district illegal.

Deputy City Attorney Sharon Dickgrafe said one emphasis of the new ordinance is offenses around closing times. Otherwise, crimes in Old Town are down, she said.

The idea is to increase Old Town’s family-friendly status.

“I want people to understand you’re not a target if you’re doing the right thing,” council member Lavonta Williams said.

The entertainment district extends from Central south to both sides of Douglas, and from Wabash west to the west side of St. Francis.

Potential offenses covered by the new ordinance include assault and battery, disorderly conduct, drugs, criminal damage to property, criminal trespass, obstruction of legal duty, unlawful use of weapon, loitering, failure to vacate premises, loitering at entertainment establishments, tampering with an automobile and larceny.

It lands a little harder on loiterers between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m., ratcheting up potential fines to $1,000 with jail time.

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