The Las Vegas City Council voted to make it easier for minors to enter Container Park following a lengthy discussion Wednesday of whether liquor license standards need to be changed to address the problem of underage drinking.
Council members have been wrestling with liquor issues in downtown Las Vegas, bouncing between making it easier to buy liquor to making it more difficult.
Business Licensing Manager Karen Duddleston asked for some direction from the council about how to deal with emerging alcohol-related problems. She didn’t get much guidance and council members decided to postpone detailed discussion until they have a retreat at the West Sahara Library Feb. 25.
Council members Ricki Barlow and Lois Tarkanian shared their concerns about underage drinking — and later voted against easing restrictions on minors entering Container Park at 707 E. Fremont St.
Right now, minors must be accompanied by a parent or a guardian. The council voted 5-2 to allow minors with identification such as high school or government ID to enter the children’s playground during the daytime and before the 9 p.m. curfew.
The request for lightening the restriction came from the Las Vegas Academy, a short distance from the park, according to Councilman Bob Coffin. Students want the ability to perform at the Container Park, which combines shops and taverns as well as attractions for children. Barlow said he goes there every other weekend.
Las Vegas attorney Jennifer Roberts shared encouraging numbers about the park which opened Nov. 25. There have been 300,000 visitors since it opened and the Presidents Day weekend drew 25,000. She said it has done gross sales of $1.3 million and employs 153 people, not counting construction workers.
Duddleston’s report showed that in the past five years, the downtown has seen a 36 percent increase in bar and restaurant liquor licenses while the rest of the city has seen a 4.5 percent decrease. Downtown has seen an increase of nearly 67 percent in package liquor licenses at stores while the rest of the city has seen a 2.4 percent increase.
The council has worked to increase taverns in the Fremont Street East Entertainment District adjacent to the Fremont Street Experience. The Metropolitan Police Department has seen more calls regarding violent crime in the areas where the liquor licenses have increased.
Related issues include gang activity, package liquor consumption, street performers, homeless people, sidewalk construction, street congestion and parking garage security, Duddleston added.
“This council has to slow up a little bit,” Barlow said. “This is a very important conversation that this council has to decide on how families and youths tie in to downtown.”
Councilman Steve Ross told Duddleston and Flinn Fagg, director of planning, that they had a “golden opportunity to demonstrate leadership and set the bar.”
The general advice the council gave staff is that they need more discussion.
“Maybe we’ll have an all day City Council meeting to discuss these things,” Mayor Carolyn Goodman said.
Contact reporter Jane Ann Morrison at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0275.