Remember the Meathead Ordinance the Seattle City Council passed last August? No? It also goes by the fancier title Nighttime Disturbance Ordinance, the new city law that will haul your drunk, belligerent, rowdy, partying ass to jail if you are found disturbing the peace at night.
It's taking effect Feb. 1. The Seattle Police Department was supposed to begin enforcing the law Jan. 1, but they are still fine-tuning a few minor details (such as what's the best time to impose the ordinance?; so far the consensus is midnight to 5:00 a.m.). But even though enforcement is right around the corner, the city has done little (if anything officially) to let people know that there are new penalties coming down the pike.
The law aims to curb rowdy, drunken behavior on the city's streets by allowing SPD officers to write tickets for fighting, threatening behavior, and noisy disturbances.
SPD Assistant Chief Michael Sanford told the council's Housing, Human Services, Health, and Culture Committee today that they will begin outreach starting Jan. 15. That involves talking to late-night establishments about the new law. But what remains unclear is how patrons will get the news.
Council members Nick Licata and Sally Clark suggested beer coasters, napkins, and posters advertising the news (apparently Denver used beer coasters for a similar announcement; obviously nothing gets a 21-year-old's attention more than a beer coaster with a St. Pauli girl on it, right?). But will that actually happen, and who will pay for it?
More on the Meathead Bill after the jump
I think it will take SPD and the city a substantial amount of time to let citizens know that this ordinance is a serious one (comes with a $125 fine, no less), which could result in a citation and prison if rowdy bar-hoppers don't listen to cops asking them to go home.
Sanford stressed that the ordinance was meant to be a tool to discourage rowdy behavior, "not to issue citations, but to serve as a threat to get people to leave" if they are creating a disturbance. "It's to tell people that if you don't leave now you are going to get a $125 fine." He said there were four steps in the whole process, starting with a warning and ending with asking the trouble-maker for his or her ID to issue them a ticket.
I am sure if these rowdy creatures of the night have no idea what the cops are talking about, they are not going to make SPD's job easy. Sanford acknowledged that there's bound to be people who will refuse to comply and resort to violence. That's why it's even more important to warn people about what's coming their way. Licata agrees: "Whatever we can do to pre-educate our public will make things easier for the police."