During a long meeting confirming that City Hall can’t please everybody all of the time, the Wichita City Council moved the city closer Tuesday to becoming a creative place that welcomes live music at less-formal venues while safeguarding neighborhoods.
The amended ordinance, which Deputy Police Chief Tom Stolz is right to still consider a work in progress, cuts the annual entertainment license fee for coffeehouses, art galleries, music stores and music-only venues to $50.
That’s down from $400, which had seemed overkill for venues that don’t serve alcohol, don’t tend to attract troublemakers and may offer music infrequently.
Some people in the community have chafed at the effort to regulate such entertainment at all — a feeling hardened by some misdemeanor charges against venue owners. Certainly, one lesson of this process should be that not all live-music venues are the same, or should be regulated as such.
But because coffeehouses, art galleries and the like can draw crowds and generate complaints about noise and parking, they are legitimate subjects for affordable license fees and reasonable regulation.
Going forward, city officials and stakeholders need to keep the dialogue going regarding the ordinance’s guidelines on venue capacity, hours and more, and make adjustments and improvements accordingly.
As Stolz told the council Tuesday, “Before we talk of increasing capacities or exempting businesses from entertainment licenses altogether, it would be prudent to hear from surrounding neighborhoods, neighborhood associations and businesses who may be impacted.”
If the city has had difficulty getting the details right on the entertainment license, it deserves praise for its success in countering the trouble that started it all: the 2008 violence related to bars, including six homicides and nearly 130 assaults with weapons. Since the city first updated its entertainment ordinance in 2009, as Stolz told the council Tuesday, violent crime has substantially dropped at and around clubs and no murders have occurred.
What an impressive change.
As Stolz said a few months back, “We don’t want to run music out of this city, or nightlife, or fun.”
For now, the updated ordinance seems to balance the priorities, serving both public safety and quality of life.
For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman