In an effort to curb what police complain is widespread public drunkenness, the Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday imposed strict rules on three Pacoima liquor outlets, including a ban on selling cold beer and wine and the sale of single cans or small bottles of alcoholic beverages.
The three stores must close by 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and at midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, instead of selling until 2 a.m., as state law allows other liquor outlets and bars to do.
The owners of the stores--Pacoima Food Market, Leon's Liquor and John's Liquor--pleaded with the council not to impose the rules, saying they would suffer a severe loss of business because the rules would not affect their competitors.
Farah Amari, owner of the Pacoima Food Market, said the ban on sales of cold beer would be a "death sentence to my business."
City Zoning Administrator Jon Perica said the rules were applied only to the three outlets at this time because police and zoning officials, responding to complaints from nearby residents, found evidence of drunkenness and crimes stemming from their liquor sales.
Such evidence was needed to buttress changes in the zoning permits under which the liquor outlets operate, he said, and similar information is being gathered on eight or nine other Pacoima liquor outlets.
Councilman Ernani Bernardi said the three were singled out for initial action "because these three were extreme problems, and you have to start someplace."
Owners of the outlets also argued that Pacoima's main problem is cocaine sales, and that liquor stores have no role in drug sales.
But Police Department officials countered that drinking in public contributes to traffic accidents, brawls and property damage--all of which are severe problems in the area.
More than 500 drunk-driving arrests were made in the past year at San Fernando Road and Van Nuys Boulevard, more than any other intersection in the city, police officials said.
Perica, who drafted the rules, said they will automatically be reconsidered in six months.
Fred Taylor, who recently formed an activist group called the San Fernando Valley Community Advisory Board, argued against giving the rules the force of law. His group has been trying to persuade sellers of alcoholic beverages to police themselves. But after the council's action, he said: "We will no longer be able to get merchants to voluntarily comply. Why should they go along if the city cracks down anyway?"
Leon's and John's are among 22 Pacoima merchants voluntarily following most of the rules the city is imposing, Taylor said.
But Augie Maldonado, a leader of the Pacoima Coordinating Council, a private civic group, urged the council to impose the rules. He said John's and Leon's joined the effort to curb drunkenness "only after they were put on notice they had to answer for these difficulties."