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Tough Liquor Law Looms in Lynwood

August 13, 1987|LEE HARRIS | Times Staff Writer

LYNWOOD — By mid-September, customers here might be unable to quench their thirst through the purchase of a single beer or wine cooler at local convenience stores or markets.

Under a proposed ordinance, anyone who wants a beer or wine cooler will have to buy at least a six-pack of beer or a four-pack of wine coolers. City Council members--who gave tentative approval to the ordinance earlier this month--said their intention is to discourage people from drinking and driving .

The ordinance, which comes up for a final vote Aug, 18, is being described by its supporters as one of the toughest local liquor laws on the books.

"We have had lots of citizens complaining that there are enough places selling liquor in the community already," Councilman E. L. Morris said. "And we needed more control over those. I think this ordinance will do a good job of regulating them."

Besides the restriction on sales, the ordinance would:

- Make it illegal to sell gasoline and alcoholic beverages from the same outlet.

- Prohibit construction of new outlets selling alcoholic beverages within 500 feet of another one. New outlets also could not be built within 500 feet of hospitals, churches, parks or schools. Only bona fide restaurants and veterans' clubs would be exempt from the distance requirements.

- Require a six-foot wall around the parking lot of any new establishment selling alcoholic beverages if there is an abutting residential area.

- Ban video games in liquor outlets selling alcoholic beverages for consumption off the premises.

- Restrict all alcoholic beverage advertisements so that they cannot be seen from the streets.

- Require all paper or plastic cups to be sold in regular packaging instead of individually.

- Place sexually oriented magazines behind counters and covered by panels. This applies to liquor stores or markets selling both magazines and alcoholic beverages.

But it is the provision prohibiting single-sales of beer and wine coolers that is drawing the most interest.

David Robbins, district administrator for the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Department in Long Beach, said the requirement is unusual.

"I don't know if this is constitutional. It might be challenged in court," said Robbins, whose agency issues liquor licenses. However, applicants for liquor licenses must comply with local ordinances, such as the Lynwood one, before the ABC gives final approval. Those who already have licenses must comply fully with the new ordinance within five years.

Lynwood is "one of a few (communities) in the state that is requiring beer and wine not be bought in singles from off-sales outlets," said Vicente Maas, Lynwood community development director.

Maas said he does not know the number of cities with this requirement and he said he is unaware of any constitutional challenges. But he agreed that the Lynwood ordinance "is very restrictive. It is more restrictive than most."

The provision banning sale of gasoline and alcoholic beverages from the same outlet also could be challenged, since a law passed by the Legislature last month prevents local governments from banning such sales. The state law becomes effective Jan. 1.

While the state might prevent cities from banning such sales, Maas said he believes cities still retain the power to prohibit individual stores, on a case-by-case basis, from selling both products at the same location.

There is only one store in the city that now sells both gasoline and alcoholic beverages, Maas said. This store, like all existing establishments, would have to comply with the law within five years or go out of business.

The 90 establishments that sell liquor in this city of 50,000 will be notified of the new law and told they will have to reapply for conditional use permits under the new law.

"It will be an arduous task to enforce it," Maas said.

If approved on Aug. 18, the ordinance will go into effect Sept. 18.

It replaces a less restrictive 1986 ordinance that was spurred by concerns by residents over proliferation of liquor stores and followed in the footsteps of a Los Angeles law to restrict new liquor stores.

Residents had complained of loitering, littering, drug trafficking, prostitution, vandalism and excessive noise associated with certain liquor outlets in the city.

Ray Chavira, former city planning commissioner who led a community effort to have a more restrictive ordinance passed, praised the new ordinance.

"This is a beauty except for a few little things," said Chavira, who also is a former member of the county Commission on Alcoholism.

There is no restriction on the hours an outlet can sell or restriction on how close an outlet can be to a residential area, Chavira said.

There are several sections of the ordinance, including how far an outlet can be from a residence, that the legal and administrative staff of the city will review with an eye toward more changes, said Maas.

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