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Santa Clarita / Antelope Valley : City Backs Restrictions on Alcohol Sales

TIMES STAFF WRITER

After more than a year of public review, the City Council has tentatively approved a law restricting how and where alcoholic beverages can be sold in Palmdale.

The law prohibits the sale of alcohol if a business is too close to areas described as “sensitive,” such as schools, churches, parks and residential areas. It also imposes new rules on convenience markets, such as banning the sale of alcohol from drive-up windows.

Similar laws have been adopted in the county and in neighboring Lancaster, and some local leaders said Palmdale’s alcohol law was overdue.

“I urge you to adopt the proposed ordinance,” Ray Chavira, an Antelope Valley resident who serves on the Los Angeles County Commission on Alcoholism, told the council Tuesday night. “Now’s the time to move. You’re going to have lots of problems if you don’t legislate now.”

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The proposed law states that the city needs to regulate businesses that sell or serve alcohol because they could lead to increased crime problems--including drunk driving--and have an adverse impact on neighboring sites such as parks and schools.

Council members approved a first reading of the ordinance Tuesday night in a 4-0 vote, with Mayor Jim Ledford, who said he had a business conflict, abstaining. Ledford said he is negotiating the sale of his interest in a local sports bar.

If the alcohol law is approved during a second vote next month, it will take effect 30 days later. It will apply only to alcohol-related businesses that seek to open after the law is in place.

Under the new rules, businesses whose primary purpose is to sell alcohol, and other outlets that would be too close to schools, churches and other specified areas, must obtain a conditional use permit from the city before they can open.

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“I think it’s a good start,” Councilman David J. Myers said Wednesday. “I personally would like to see it be a little tougher. But I think it’s important to get something on the books.”

Because Lancaster and the county have already enacted such laws, Palmdale risked becoming the region’s center for alcohol sales if it does not impose its own restrictions, Myers said.

More than a year ago, the council instructed its staff to prepare new rules for businesses that serve and sell alcohol. The city held a public workshop on the issue, and the Planning Commission conducted three public hearings before passing a final version of the law on to the council.

Myers cautioned that the alcohol sales restrictions were based solely on how such businesses affect the city as a whole. “This has to be distinguished from any kind of moral statement that alcohol is an evil,” he said. “This is simply a prudent step to protect the health and safety of Palmdale.”

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