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Cracking down on Burlington bars - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Cracking down on Burlington bars

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

It's the lull between the lunch crowd and the dinner rush at Manhattan Pizza and Pub in downtown Burlington, but as the night falls, the security presence will be much different.

"We have increased security, door people, floor people, eyes in the sky, that kind of thing," owner Matt Small said.

Small is being proactive, trying to make sure his restaurant and bar won't be getting the pink slip during one of the busiest times of the year.

"It would be really terribly financially and for me it would be embarrassing," Small said. "I would think that were not going to let that happen. I don't want to have to put a sign up on the door that says we're closed for breaking the rules."

Several of his neighbors have been written up recently. Rasputin's nightclub lost its liquor license for 30 days. And What Ale's You for 15.

"I wouldn't want to describe it as a problem, but it's something that needs to be managed constantly because of the culture of the bar scene," Burlington Police Lt. Shawn Burke said.

The Burlington Police Department is renewing is efforts downtown. And the Vt. Department of Liquor Control upped its undercover surveillance statewide from a few times a year to a few times each month, especially at bars with reputations for breaking the rules.

"They want an emphasis on getting the problem bars, putting them under the microscope and having scrutiny brought upon them," said Bill Goggins of the Vt. Department of Liquor Control.

The more common offenses they check for: serving to minors and overcrowding and overserving.

"Anytime there's a dip in the economy the people try to pay their bills any way they can. When you're in the bar business, how do you pay your bills? You sell alcohol," Goggins said.

Goggins says some bars not only up their drinks but cut their staff and that can be a recipe for danger.

"When you cut back on staff you don't have the people walking the floor to see people getting past point of intoxication," Goggins said.

That's something Matt Small wants to make sure doesn't happen at his restaurant and bar.

"Everybody I think is a little bit on edge," Smith said. "And I would say we're not on edge; we're prepared."

Goggins says 95 percent of the bars in the state follow the rules, but the 5 percent that overserve could put not only the customers but people on the road in danger.

Either the local police or the liquor control investigators write up the offense, which they pass on to local liquor committees that review the offense and the bar's history of any past offenses, and use those to determine an appropriate sanction.

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