Saying that legislation is necessary because the historic downtown area "gets a little too lively on some nights," City Councilman Richard Veit of St. Charles, Missouri (a St. Louis suburb) has proposed a measure that would ban swearing and other lively conduct in the city’s drinking establishment.
That’s the last thing a city needs, especially in Missouri — a lively downtown. I remember when Kansas City’s downtown used to be just swarming with lively tumbleweeds (actually, I don’t remember that, because no one ever went downtown), but I think that situation has changed recently. As far as I know, swearing is still legal there.
In St. Charles, however, Veit says he proposed Bill 9527 in response to citizen complaints, and that its purpose is only to give police some rules to enforce in rowdy situations. In addition to the existing prohibitions on certain conduct where alcoholic beverages are sold (hint: there are lots of things that cannot be "exposed to public view"), the bill would make it illegal to "allow any indecent, profane or obscene language, song, entertainment, literature or advertising material upon the premises." Chapter 115.12(G) (proposed). That seems significantly less than constitutional, since it would preclude not just swearing but everything from The Onion to Ulysses (I mention that on the off chance anyone might be reading Ulysses in a bar in Missouri).
Another new provision would make it illegal to "permit any person to dance, sit or stand upon a bar, tables, or any other raised surface that is used for preparing or serving food or beverages." Chapter 115.12(F). If that passes, I am immediately flying to St. Charles where I plan to lay down on every bar I can find.
Local resident Marc Rousseau, who coincidentally owns a bar, said he thinks the bill needs to at least be revised. "We’re dealing with adults here once again [either he’s made this argument before or they frequently deal with adults there] and I don’t think it’s the city’s job or the government’s job to determine what we can and cannot play [or dance on] in our restaurant," Rousseau said. Rousseau runs a place called "R.T. Weilers," which is presumably lively.
According to the "Quick Facts" section of the St. Charles website, the city’s "rich heritage" includes the fact that Lewis and Clark left from there to explore the Northwest Territory. Actually, I guess it includes two facts: (1) Lewis and Clark arrived in St. Charles in May 1804, and (2) then they left. Clark wrote that upon arriving in St. Charles, "a number [of] Spectators flocked to the bank to See the party . . . . Chiefly French, those people appear pore, polite and harmonious." In view of the current need for an anti-swearing ordinance, it seems that is at most fifty percent true today.
The city council will discuss the proposal at a meeting on January 14.
Link: AP via FindLaw.com
Link: City of St. Charles