Alcohol Nuisance Abatement Ordinance Brings ‘Tangible Improvements’ to North Long Beach Liquor Stores

North Long Beach residents may have noticed their local liquor stores looking a little brighter and cleaner so far this year as the City’s Alcohol Nuisance Abatement Ordinance began implementation in the program’s initial pilot area. 

After first being brought before city council in 2012 by 9th District Councilmember Steve Neal and 8th District Councilmember Al Austin, the ordinance—which created a set of visual and performance standards for liquor stores—was approved in August 2013 and went into effect in the 9th District on January 10 of this year. 

The new standards required liquor stores to adhere to strict anti-nuisance regulations including providing exterior lighting, installing a security system, removing pay phones to reduce loitering, adding exterior addresses to facades, and removing signage and coolers from 90% of exposed window space. Also, graffiti must be removed within 24 hours and the establishment must, overall, operate in a “neat, orderly, clean manner.”

“If we are going to improve our neighborhoods, it has to start with the liquor stores,” Austin said. “It’s not a panacea for crime or illegal activity but it is a giant step forward toward progress.”

In an update on the ordinance’s success given to city council last week, Neal noted “tangible improvements to a majority of the affected liquor stores in North Long Beach,” including compliance from 11 of the district’s 26 remaining non-conforming liquor stores. 12 more stores are near compliance and are expected to reach full compliance soon, while three stores remain out of compliance, which puts them at risk of losing their ability to sell alcohol.

El Camino Market, K&J Liquor and Liquor Mill were several businesses hailed as early successes of the Alcohol Nuisance Abatement Ordinance. El Camino, for example, used to have no cameras or security system, featured deteriorating paint and had signs and coolers in the windows. After implenting the new standards, El Camino now has a fresh coat of paint, recessed outdoor lighting and a security system.

Eight of the 26 liquor stores applied for city grants which offer $2000 for facade improvements in business corridors.

For those that are not fully compliant but are making efforts, future visits from the Department of Development Services as well as Code Enforcement will attempt to bring them up to the new standards. No deadline was stated for when the remaining stores must abide by the ANAO, however, Director of Development services Amy Bodek said the revocation process is lengthy and afterwards, the stores would have to re-apply to sell alcohol through a more-stringent Conditional Use Permit process. 

The ANAO is part of Neal and Austin’s North Long Beach Liquor Store Modernization Project, an initiative launched in 2012 to address resident concerns about local liquor outlets. According to a study done by Neal’s office, North Long Beach has more than three times as many liquor stores per capita as the rest of the city and also houses nearly 40% of the city’s off-site liquor stores despite being home to only 20% of the city’s total population. 

If deemed successful in the 9th District, the ANAO’s standards may be implemented city-wide. 

For more information on the ANAO, visit insidedistrict9.com/betterliquorstores

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Sarah Bennett is a contributor to the Hi-lo and the editor-at-large at the Long Beach Post. She is also a professor at Santa Ana College where she was once a student before transferring to USC to earn her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Sarah has written about music, art, food and beer in local, national and international publications for over a decade. An L.A. native and longtime resident of Long Beach, she is the co-founder of Long Beach Zine Fest and managing editor at theLAnd magazine. She never sleeps.
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