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September 2, 2014

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Police can now confiscate booze in downtown casino district

Image

Sam Morris

A man drinks beer from a plastic cowboy boot on Fremont Street Saturday, June 30, 2012.

From now on, if you have a bag of liquor and you open it on the Fremont Street Experience, police have the option of confiscating the booze.

That was the lesser punishment considered today by the Las Vegas City Council, which is trying to enact laws to limit rampant alcohol consumption in downtown’s main tourist area.

Bags of booze purchased at a liquor store, which are required to be sealed by the store, will have a receipt attached on the outside. If someone is seen opening the bag, police can take it away.

Another option that would have made opening a bag a misdemeanor with a fine of up to $1,000 and six months in jail was seen as counter to the city’s goal of improving commerce downtown.

Drinks purchased at casinos are OK, as long as they are poured into a cup before going outside.

The Fremont Street Experience is five blocks of Fremont Street, with four of them covered by an electrified canopy.

The council anguished for about an hour over what to do now that it has other new laws on the books limiting booze. New laws already ban advertising in the gift shops and liquor stores in the Fremont Street Experience — there are six of those stores.

The laws also ban any new liquor stores, unless they come as part of a pharmacy or grocery store. Tiny bottles of booze, like those served on airplanes, are banned. So are large containers of alcohol or coolers with more than 13 percent alcohol content.

Though almost never enforced historically, it has been illegal to drink booze purchased at a liquor store within 1,000 feet of any liquor store.

That has changed in recent weeks, and the laws are being enforced.

Metro Police Capt. Shawn Anderson, whose Downtown Area Command includes the Fremont Street Experience, said his officers have noticed less chaos in the touristy area over the last two weeks.

“It’s gotten a lot better,” he said.

The biggest change has been that nobody can now drink alcohol from an original container — glass, metal or plastic — at the Fremont Street Experience. And the liquor stores also have signs posted telling people that they can’t open their liquor within 1,000 feet of the store.

Councilman Bob Beers chided the new bag rule adopted today, saying existing rules are adequate. He suggested the city’s real goal is to put downtown liquor stores out of business; targeting liquor store customers only punishes tourists, not the stores.

He said that maybe an ordinance should be drafted “criminalizing people even thinking about opening a bag.”

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