LINCOLN — A frustrated bar owner said Wednesday that the only way to reduce the number of intoxicated patrons inside his bar on a Nebraska football game day is to start punishing the drinkers, and not just the bar that served them.

“There’s no penalty for the overserved. There’s a penalty for the provider. It’s ridiculous,” said Kevin Fitzpatrick, the managing partner of Barry’s, a popular Lincoln sports bar near Memorial Stadium.

Fitzpatrick told the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission that in Indiana and Missouri, where his corporation also operates college bars, police can give tickets to drunken and disorderly customers, which tends to reduce overindulging.

“Here, it’s almost a badge of honor to go to the drunk tank,” he said, because Nebraska has no such law.

On Wednesday, the commission conducted a hearing over two allegations that Barry’s had served clearly intoxicated patrons on Sept. 23, a Husker football game day. The commission took the charges under advisement after hearing about 90 minutes of conflicting testimony. A ruling is expected next month.

If Barry’s is found guilty, the recommended penalty would be cancellation of the liquor license for the bar, which has had three previous violations in the past five years.

Fitzpatrick and other representatives of Barry’s argued that they’ve taken extraordinary steps to prevent serving drunken customers and can’t think of additional steps. On game days, the bar has a security staff of 24 to handle the 5,000-plus customers who come to the multi-level sports bar. About 30 percent of its annual payroll is spent on security. A manager said “hundreds” of patrons are denied admission each game day due to intoxication and false identification, and staff is regularly trained on spotting inebriated customers and preventing overserving.

“This is the top bar in the state” for preventative steps, said Barry’s attorney Mike Kelley.

Liquor Commissioner Bruce Bailey questioned that. He told a Barry’s manager that the manager had promised that the bar wouldn’t be back before the liquor board after being fined $8,000 in August. “But guess what? You’re back.”

Bailey said perhaps the answer is more security or limits on the number of people who can be in an establishment.

Reporter - Regional/state issues

Paul covers state government and affiliated issues. He specializes in tax and transportation issues, following the governor and the state prison system. Follow him on Twitter @PaulHammelOWH. Phone: 402-473-9584.

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