Las Vegas Sun

October 18, 2017

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Joe Downtown: Alcohol-related issues downtown continue to spill into City Hall’s lap


L.E. Baskow

Crazy Ely Western Village, seen here Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, could lose its special-use permit to sell beer, wine and wine coolers for off-premises consumption.

Crazy Ely Western Village

A Fremont Street Experience retailer on Wednesday could lose its right to sell beer and wine, and it may be just the beginning of an effort by city officials to stem the tide of booze-related businesses opening downtown.

City staff supports a recommendation revoke a special-use permit that allows Crazy Ely Western Village, 321 Fremont St., to sell beer, wine and wine coolers for off-premises consumption.

The city maintains Crazy Ely Western Village, which sells souvenirs as well as the alcoholic beverages, has violated terms of its permit three times since the permit was granted in 2009. The store is at the intersection of Fourth and Fremont streets and in the same block as The D Las Vegas.

Notices of violation were issued to the store in February 2010 for placing beer/coolers within 10 feet of the store’s entrance; in October 2011 for allowing on-premise consumption and having no “off-sales” signs posted; and in September 2013 for allowing on-premise consumption of alcohol.

At its meeting Wednesday, the Las Vegas City Council is scheduled to conduct a review and public hearing on the matter and vote whether to revoke the special-use permit.

Whenever the city reviews a special use permit, it notifies nearby property owners about the matter via postcards. The cards have boxes that can be checked and returned to the city to indicate either support for or opposition to the permit. Property owners also can submit statements for or against the business in question.

In this case, Downtown Project, the private, $350 million redevelopment agency whose partners include CEO Tony Hsieh, own several properties in the vicinity of Crazy Ely Western Village. The postcards from Downtown Project have one word written in the “comment” and “vote” section: “Against.”

City staff could not be reached for comment Monday, the Presidents Day holiday. A Downtown Project spokesman could not be reached for comment.

A store manager at Crazy Ely Western Village said all the matters would be addressed at Wednesday’s meeting.

* * *

Alcohol downtown will be an issue at the forefront of Wednesday’s meeting in other ways, too.

City staff will present a report on “the emergence of alcohol-related issues in the downtown area.” Several meetings among city staff and downtown business owners have been conducted in the last few months.

Sources say the city has expressed concern that so many alcohol-related businesses are slated to open downtown. Five businesses in Downtown Project’s Container Park, which opened in late November, are seeking an extension of temporary tavern limited licenses. Those extension requests will be heard Wednesday.

The middle of the Container Park is a children’s play area; before the outdoor mall opened, some city officials and police expressed concern over alcohol being sold near the play area. So far, there appear to be no problems as city staff is recommending approval of those licenses.

Debate over how many liquor-selling stores should be in the Fremont Street Experience has also been simmering for months.

In November, the city banned any new applications for liquor stores for six months within the Experience, which is the canopied, western section of Fremont Street that is blocked to vehicular traffic. Within the five-block stretch, 21 businesses have licenses to sell beer, wine or liquor for off-premises consumption.

In July, four more businesses applied for the right to participate in such sales.

Worries stemmed, in part, from the voluminous crowds gathered on Fremont during the summer months. On the first Friday of the month, which coincides with a popular art walk/festival a mile southwest of Fremont Street, police took extensive measures to rein in underage drinking.

Police set up barricades to that prevented people from walking in the street but also funneled them into checkpoints; no one under 21 was allowed past the checkpoints. In October, the city also adopted a much stricter curfew law that allowed fines of $300 for those under 18 found in the Fremont Street area between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. Fridays, Saturdays, legal holidays or Dec. 31.

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