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Valley Focus | San Fernando

City Gets Tougher on Illegal Liquor Sales

January 09, 1998|DARRELL SATZMAN

In a move that one member said will "add teeth" to efforts to crack down on illegal alcohol sales, the San Fernando Planning Commission this week approved a provision making it easier for the city to prosecute rogue establishments.

In a 4-0 vote, with one member abstaining, the commission increased the penalties for businesses that continue to sell alcohol after their conditional-use permits have been revoked or suspended. Any person convicted of violating the ordinance more than three times in a year would be guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum fine of $1,000 or six months in jail, officials said.

The change in law comes not in the city's restrictive liquor license ordinance but in the city's zoning code, meaning that authorities could use the provision to crack down on a wide range of businesses operating in violation of their conditional-use permits, said John Becker, chairman of the Planning Commission.

However, the provision was added specifically to target a handful of businesses that have been selling alcohol illegally, Becker said.

"The state [Department of Alcohol Beverage Control] is so loaded down that they are not really effective at cracking down on these businesses," Becker said. "This allows the city of San Fernando to take matters into its own hands."

A drive to loosen San Fernando's liquor license ordinance, which was passed in 1993 and is considered one of the toughest in the state, has stirred intense debate in the city in the past year.

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