A proposal to block new liquor store applications at the Fremont Street Experience won support from a City Council committee on Monday, and more restrictions could be on the way.
The council’s Recommending Committee voted 3-0 in favor of a proposal that would put a six-month moratorium on accepting applications for package liquor stores for locations along the pedestrian mall, which stretches five blocks from Las Vegas Boulevard to Main Street.
The moratorium, which still needs approval from the City Council, would give officials time to study what they say is an increasing level of alcohol-related problems, such as violence and aggressive panhandling.
Although it was prompted by opposition by operators of the Fremont Street Experience to four new applications along the street, the moratorium doesn’t preclude those applications from advancing.
Instead, it would block the city from accepting new applications in the moratorium zone, which doesn’t include streets immediately adjacent.
Councilman Ricki Barlow voted in favor of the moratorium but pressed City Attorney Brad Jerbic to consider expanding it throughout downtown.
“Personally I would like to see something more broad in scope so we will have the opportunity to manage the entire downtown and not just one street,” Barlow said.
Jerbic told Barlow it was too late to include a broader moratorium in the existing bill without requiring the process to begin anew with additional public notices. He also said a broader moratorium could run into opposition from the Downtown Project, the $350 million real estate and business financing entity funded by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh.
“They are not part of this moratorium,” Jerbic said. “If they were they would be here in protest I am certain.”
Representatives of the Downtown Project did not respond to a message seeking comment on the issue.
If, as expected, the council approves the moratorium on Wednesday, the backers think it could help cut down on problems they say make Fremont Street unpleasant for casual visitors.
Jerbic said Metropolitan Police Department officers and city officials have observed hundreds of instances of Fremont Street liquor stores encouraging patrons to violate open container ordinances.
Under city code, open containers are legal on public streets if they were originally served from a bar operating under a tavern license. However, booze from package liquor stores is illegal to consume on the street within 1,000 feet of a package liquor retailer.
Jerbic said police and officials observed liquor store employees opening beverages for customers to drink on the pedestrian mall, beer sold from coolers placed at the front of the store, and employees telling patrons it was OK to drink booze from the store outside.
The observations took place only on Fremont Street and wouldn’t be something city officials could use to justify broadening the moratorium throughout the downtown, Jerbic said. That would take another ordinance.
In addition to approving the moratorium, members of the Recommending Committee said they’d welcome proposals for more restrictions in the area.
Mayor Pro Tem Stavros Anthony said costumed performers and panhandlers are crowding the street and making it uncomfortable for tourists.
“We need to really start looking at the whole thing,” he said. “I think it is a good time to start really focusing on everything that is going on down there.”
Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BenSpillman702