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Ban on New Liquor Licenses Extended 1 Year : Regulation: The City Council wants more time to weigh various ways to control alcohol sales.


HUNTINGTON PARK — A ban on new liquor licenses has been extended for a second year, giving city officials more time to study options for regulating alcohol sales in the community.

No new licenses have been approved since the City Council unanimously approved a moratorium last July. On Monday, the council voted for the year's extension.

The city staff, requesting more direction from council members, has now prepared a preliminary report listing several possible regulations.

"We now are ready to find out where the council members want to go with this," said Henry Gray, assistant Community Development director. "We'd like to see some debate and discussion, and go from there."

Gray said his staff is surveying liquor license regulations in other cities, including San Fernando and Santa Monica. "We want to give them as many options as possible," he said.

The majority of council members said this week that they favor regulating liquor sales and pointed to 17 new requests for licenses submitted to the city in the past year as evidence that both the ban's extension and the establishment of regulations are needed.

"If we didn't have the moratorium, there would be 17 more places for our residents to buy booze right now," said Councilman Luis Hernandez. "That's unacceptable."

Councilman Thomas Jackson, a local businessman who opposes an ordinance, said the new applications indicate that there is a need in the community.

"The marketplace will determine how many liquor stores there should be in town, not the five of us sitting up here on council," he argued. "I don't see anything wrong with allowing legitimate businessmen to sell a six-pack of beer to someone along with his groceries."

Hernandez and Mayor Ric Loya disagreed, noting that a disproportionate number of liquor stores have opened in minority neighborhoods, and the council has a moral obligation to limit the numbers.

"It's not an issue of the marketplace," Loya said. "Are you aware that the number of Latino alcoholics in our communities leaves white communities in the dust? It's a huge problem." About 92% of Huntington Park's 56,000 residents are Latino, according to Census data.

Frank Melendez, who runs an alcohol treatment center in Bell Gardens, said he sees dozens of Huntington Park residents each year. He said alcoholism is increasing in communities with predominantly Latino populations.

Melendez applauded Huntington Park's efforts to regulate liquor licenses, and said he hopes other communities follow suit.

Huntington Park has 111 liquor licenses, or one license per 524 residents, one of the highest ratios among Southeast cities. For example, Lynwood, with a population of nearly 62,000, has 79 licenses, or one per 784 residents. Bell Gardens--with a population of 42,355--has 64 alcohol outlets, or one license per 672 residents.

Among the regulations listed by city officials are: establishing a minimum distance between places selling alcohol, and schools, parks and churches; prohibiting the sale of gasoline and alcohol at the same location; reducing hours of operation for selling alcohol, and prohibiting the sale of single containers.

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