Kansas City rids restaurants and bars of red tape that was costly burden for workers

Kansas City has done away with what the executive director of the Greater Kansas City Restaurant association calls “the most hated aspect of employment among servers and bartenders in Kansas City.”

The City Council on Thursday passed an ordinance freeing workers from the hassle and expense of obtaining a liquor control card from the city as a condition of their employment at restaurants and bars.

Most of the $42 that workers pay the city’s Regulated Industries Division went for a criminal background check that weeded out felons.

Whether to conduct background checks or hire ex felons is now up to employers, with one exception. At the urging of MOCSA, a group that advocates for the prevention of sexual violence, there is a new requirement that businesses serving alcohol must check with state and national sexual offender registries to see if the names of potential employees show up on those lists.

Registered sex offenders cannot be hired to serve or dispense alcohol or check IDs at the door.

Restaurant association executive director Bill Teel on Wednesday told a council committee that “restaurant owners have a vested interest in hiring good employees, and should be tasked with making making proper hiring decisions.” Regulated Industries, the city agency responsible for policing businesses such as bars, strip clubs, skating rinks and junkyards, remains responsible for enforcing liquor laws and ensuring compliance, he said.

In addition to freeing workers from the expense and hassle of obtaining a liquor card, the move should make it easier for people with criminal records to get a job.

“We’re a second-chance industry,” David Lopez, general manager of Manny’s Mexican Restaurant, testified. “We want to help people make their lives better.”

The ordinance adds a new requirement that any business selling alcoholic drinks must also have at least one manager on staff who has completed the National Restaurants Association course on serving alcohol safely.

The lead sponsor on the ordinance, Mayor Quinton Lucas, celebrated ahead of Thursday’s vote with a post on Facebook:

“Proud our legislation to eliminate the liquor card requirement for thousands of servers in Kansas City moved unanimously out of committee and will be heard tomorrow at City Council. Removing cost and burden for thousands of Kansas Citians. Love it!”