Operational changes at Giggity's Sports Bar and Grill netted kudos Monday from Rome's Alcohol Control Commission.
David Rickman, owner of the venue at 227 Broad St., was asked to appear at the ACC's meeting to discuss a growing unease about the behavior of patrons and staff. The issues were raised at the citizen board's October meeting, and Rickman said he took action as soon as he read the news report.
"From that moment forward, we changed some of our policies ... We had some pushback from some customers but we don't want the underage drinking, the fighting and, frankly, the smoking. You can't make everybody happy," he said.
No citations had been issued at the bar but police had been fielding numerous unverified complaints — including patrons drinking outside the boundaries of the sidewalk cafe, trash left on the sidewalk, loud noise and employees drinking on duty.
Rome Police Maj. Rodney Bailey confirmed that "the direction has been positive" over the past month, leading the ACC to praise Rickman's quick work.
"We appreciate you jumping on that ... We want you to be successful," member John Kendrick said. "We're just trying to get ahead of it."
Rickman said the bar becomes restricted to patrons age 21 and older when the kitchen shuts down "at 10 or 11 p.m." Customers get wristbands and there's a separate employee detailed to check them, while the bartenders continue asking for identification.
He's also hired an off-duty police officer to work in uniform on Friday and Saturday nights.
"We had security before, but I think having someone in uniform adds a level of respect," he said.
"It's hard to manage that smoking/drinking line, but a uniformed officer gives a level of authority," Rickman added.
The question of smoking within the sidewalk cafe boundaries is expected to be clarified and codified by the Rome City Commission, likely before the end of year.
Currently, a city ordinance bans smoking within 25 feet of the main entrance of a business. However, a coalition of local healthcare professionals and advocates have asked for a complete prohibition in the downtown district.
City Clerk Joe Smith said the city's Public Safety Committee is slated to take up the Breatheasy Rome proposal at its meeting today.
"We expect a recommendation for a rule change in downtown to come out of it and go to the City Commission," Smith told the ACC.
The form of the recommendation has, so far, remained unclear. While an informal public survey indicated support for a ban, among the vocal opponents are some downtown business and restaurant owners who fear they'll lose customers and employees.
The Rome Office of Tourism board declined to weigh in on the issue last month but suggested officials consider allowing smoking areas. Downtown Development Authority board members also appear to be split.