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October 22, 2014

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City Government:

Las Vegas City Council puts brakes on new liquor stores for six months

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Identification is checked before people enter the Fremont Street Experience early Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013

Fremont Street Security

Anna Pokrovskaya, left, and Zlata Pavlova ask Metro officers if they can have a photo taken with them at the  Fremont Street Experience early Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013. Launch slideshow »

Concerns about an overabundance of alcohol along the Fremont Street Experience prompted the Las Vegas City Council to issue a moratorium today banning any new applications for liquor stores for six months.

The issue: The council considered a 180-day moratorium that restricted staff from accepting any new land use or business licensing applications for packaged liquor stores in a five-block stretch of Fremont Street from Main Street to Las Vegas Boulevard.

The vote: Approved unanimously

What it means: City staff will have the next six months to sort through its liquor licensing regulations and observe the Fremont Street Experience to see whether it should restrict the number of liquor stores in the area going forward.

There are 21 active licenses along the five-block stretch of Fremont Street permitting businesses to sell closed containers of beer, wine or liquor.

The licenses are held by a combination of casinos, gift shops and other free-standing retailers.

Four more businesses applied for the right to sell closed containers of alcohol in July, prompting a pushback from law enforcement and other downtown businesses.

They argued Fremont Street had reached a saturation point and didn’t need any more liquor stores.

“In the four months since these applications have been filed, a lot of eyes have been opened about the problems associated with package liquor sold under the canopy,” said Terry Murphy, president of the Downtown Alliance, which represents 65 area businesses. “I think the city is wise to step back, study the environment and make a decision that’s more informed six months from now.”

Murphy said that the law as currently written is unenforceable. Although people are allowed to buy closed containers of alcohol inside these liquor stores, they’re not allowed to open it out on Fremont Street, even though many still do.

“Las Vegas law requires that you cannot consume alcohol from a package liquor store within 1,000 feet of that store,” she said. “There’s no way for tourists to know that it’s not legal for them to drink that can of beer they just bought in the store."

The four pending applications are technically not affected by the moratorium, but they face slim odds of being approved before the city has had time to examine the issue. Existing liquor licenses also are unaffected.

One major area the city plans to explore is the relationship between the density of liquor stores and crime, as well as the effect it has on underage drinking.

The moratorium received little discussion among council members before it was approved Wednesday.

Mayor Carolyn Goodman said after attending several city-organized workgroups bringing together various interests along Fremont Street that she’s confident a solution can be worked out.

“I think there’s been an incredible show of willingness to work together both with the package liquor stores and the major hotels to come to some type of common resolution on this,” she said.

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