Liquor store hours to stay same for now
The Nome Common Council galloped right up to passage of an attempt to dry up public intoxication but stopped short of clearing the hurdle Monday evening.
The Council introduced a measure to limit hours of liquor stores south of Sixth Avenue to 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and bottle volumes to a liter or greater at the Aug. 27 meeting. However, following discussion by Council members and the public, second reading of the ordinance and final passage stalled in Council Chambers. The Council postponed further consideration of the law until the Nov. 26 Council meeting. Meanwhile, staff will get to work on a law to require ID cards to buy booze.
During public hearing on the issue, members of the public for the most part opposed the limited hours. Meanwhile, members of the Council and City staff attempted to tweak the language and amend the daylights out of the ordinance so folks could live with it.
Several expressed frustration born of failed proposals to solve public drunkenness on Front Street and surrounding the Nome Visitors Center.
A strong fan of limiting the availability of alcohol to inebriates, Councilman Jerald Brown offered a set of amendments to enable the ordinance to pass, but finally suggested the postponement to keep the measure on life support for future consideration.
Mike McNally, manager of Alaska Commercial which has a liquor store on Front Street that would have sales heavily curtailed by having the store open only four hours a day, told the Council the company had voluntarily taken measures to restrict sales. The past weekend, the company had moved the closing time on Front Street from 10 p.m. to 8 p.m. Second, AC has a mandatory I.D. check of all customers at both its liquor stores regardless of age. And finally, AC is currently upgrading and changing the name of its Front Street package store to “Nome Quick Stop”, to help its image to be more pleasing to visitors, McNally said.
If the store hours changed to 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., 90 percent of customers would be inconvenienced, he said. If volume were limited to one liter or greater, there would be no beer and 90 percent of wine products would be affected. McNally advocated the use of Alcohol Restricted Cards.
During the public hearing required for Council consideration, Melissa Ford took the podium to introduce the state law that provides for Alcohol Restricted ID. The system exists for municipalities that pass local law requiring the ID. An alcohol restricted card holder may not knowingly enter or remain in a licensed premise to obtain or consume alcohol. An individual with Alcohol Restricted identification may enter the establishment but may not purchase or consume alcoholic beverage.
In Alaska, the alcohol restricted licenses are in vertical format with a red banner above the photograph that says “Alcohol Restricted.” The restricted identification is available through the State of Alaska; Nome just has to plug in, advocates said. People would have the special ID cards if the court restricted alcohol intake for any reason.
Councilman Doug Johnson thought the idea was a good one. “would like us to require IDs to purchase alcohol in the City of Nome,” he said.
The Council will direct City staff to work with the City attorney to bring forth an ordinance to Council requiring ID to purchase alcohol.
Regulating hours of sale does not seem to have a future because it would interfere with business investments.
“I agree with Mike [McNally],” Chuck Fagerstrom told the Council. “The ordinance is not practical. It needs more thought, more conversation between AC and you, more coordination between the City and liquor stores.”
Fagerstrom suggested a list of people to whom AC would not sell liquor. “Doing that, you are not interfering with the responsible drinkers,” he said.
She was opposed to the ordinance, Nicole Frank said, and limiting access to the store on Front Street would hurt business and affect folks without transportation to reach the package within AC store on Nome—Teller Highway.
“It doesn’t address the problem of the homeless drinking in public,” Frank said. “Additionally, people would be walking to AC Store [on Nome—Teller Highway] during the winter.”
Trinh Johnson also opposed the limit on liquor store hours.“I don’t think you should control what we do with our businesses,” she said. “We produce money to run your city.”
Lisa Ellanna took the podium. “These are our family members, our fellow citizens. They are not things,” Ellanna said. “It is not so simple for them. It is very difficult to be homeless.
“Limiting the hours is important,” she said. “We are soaked in alcohol. We are not short of alcohol on Front Street.”
Sue Steinacher, former director of Nome Emergency Shelter Team (NEST) and board member of Alaska Coalition for Homeless, stressed that homelessness was a great part of the issue of public inebriation on Front Street. “If it’s not in your face, we don’t mind, “she said. “The people need a gathering place to be out of the wind.”
A number of people had been trying to get a funding stream together to buy the Nome Baptist Church to make a shelter, Steinacher said—no quick fix. It would take everyone together and be a great help if the City of Nome could get behind the effort.
“Is the building still available?” Mayor Richard Beneville asked. Was it something that would benefit from a letter of support? The need was greater, Steinacher responded. The community needed a shelter task force and a housing task force, she said.
The City has plans to organize a Public Safety Commission, according to Councilman Jerald Brown. The Council will have a work session to define the idea following the municipal election.
Brown assured members of the sex assault support group that investigations concerning law enforcement response to cases was in progress, but required to be confidential.
“We brought you complaints, and I still haven’t heard anything,” Trinh Johnson said.
“Lots of times when investigations are going on, they cannot be made public,” Brown said. “I am confident there are investigations proceeding on your complaints and of others. It is unfortunate it can’t be public but that’s the way it is,” Brown said.
“It’s not going to just be lies like last time?” Trinh Johnson asked.“I don’t believe it was lies last time,” Brown said. “I trust John Handeland,” Trinh Johnson said. Handeland has been named interim city manager until the City hires a new manager to replace City Manager Tom Moran who submitted his 30-day notice a week ago.
“I think you need to put John Handeland in control immediately,” Trinh Johnson said.