Moratorium ordered on Fremont Street liquor store applications

Looking to start a liquor store on Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas? Don’t bet on getting any help from City Hall, at least in the next six months.

On Wednesday, the City Council voted unanimously for a six-month moratorium on new applications for liquor stores on the Fremont Street Experience pedestrian mall between Las Vegas Boulevard and Main Street.

The idea is to give city officials time to evaluate the effect of package liquor sales on the overall experience of visiting the area.

In recent months, operators of the pedestrian mall, a group composed of casino owners who pay for upkeep of the overhead light canopy, have complained that liquor store operators are encouraging customers to break the law by getting booze from stores to drink under the canopy.

They say it’s contributing to violence and aggressive panhandling.

In Las Vegas, drinking on public streets is legal if the booze comes from a bar covered by a tavern license, as found in casinos. But people are prohibited from drinking from booze sold in a “sealed or corked” container within 1,000 feet of a liquor store.

“We know there is a problem, and we need time to work it,” Councilman Bob Coffin said. Coffin’s concern has been prolific sales of sweet, brightly colored beverages that appeal to underage drinkers and have a high alcohol content.

The four recent applications for new or expanded package liquor sales that prompted the debate won’t be affected by the moratorium because they were in progress before the ban started.

But for now the city won’t accept new applications.

Also, during a Recommending Committee meeting on Tuesday, Councilman Ricki Barlow asked city officials to consider ways to craft a broader moratorium that would cover more of downtown.