September 28, 2012 in City

Support wanes for beer limits

West Central Neighborhood Council votes to halt impact area
By The Spokesman-Review
What’s next

Repeal of West Central’s voluntary alcohol impact area will be considered by the City Council on Oct. 8.

Last year, Spokane’s West Central Neighborhood Council wanted restrictions on the sale of high-octane beer.

Now it doesn’t.

But while City Council members used the neighborhood council’s support as a reason to create a voluntary alcohol impact area in West Central, the neighborhood’s change of heart won’t necessarily make an open-and-shut case when the City Council considers repealing it next month.

After creating the impact area, the first step was asking businesses to stop selling high-octane beer. Six months after borders are up, the city can ban the sale of the fortified beer if it can prove that chronic inebriation remains a problem.

Council members Steve Salvatori and Mike Fagan are pushing for the repeal mostly at the request of the neighborhood council, which voted overwhelmingly this month during a heated monthly meeting to reverse its position on the ban.

“This was here because of the neighborhood, and they’ve changed their mind,” Salvatori said Monday.

But Councilman Jon Snyder and Council President Ben Stuckart argued that there is no harm in maintaining a voluntary alcohol impact area. The city isn’t obligated to make the ban of fortified beer mandatory, and if West Central residents change their minds a third time, the process won’t have to repeat itself, they said.

Snyder said the neighborhood earlier made a convincing case that public drunkenness was a problem. It will take more than a new neighborhood council vote to change his position.

“I’ll be looking for evidence that chronic inebriation is not a problem in West Central,” Snyder said.

A strong majority of the neighborhood council members argue that the new state law allowing liquor sales in grocery stores increases the availability of alcohol, making a high-octane beer ban ineffective and punitive to owners of carry-out stores.

West Central has taken the opposite position on impact areas compared to downtown and East Central Neighborhood leaders, who have continued to support beer restrictions despite the change in the liquor law that privatized the sale of spirits.

Fagan compared the alcohol impact law to recent changes in New York City restricting the sale of soda at restaurants, which he suggested is “social engineering.”

“I’m following through on the neighborhood council’s not only verbal but written request,” Fagan said.

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