Activists Scour Area for Violations of Liquor Laws

Residents angered by a barrage of alcohol advertisements and neon signs that dominate market storefronts in the Pico-Union district have formed a group that patrols the area for liquor-law violations.

The "New City/Pueblo Nuevo Prevention Project" was spurred by the residents' need to tackle alcohol-related problems such as public drinking, loitering and gang activity.

"Those neon liquor signs are an eyesore," said resident Ramon Berdin. "There aren't as many up now. The store employees work pretty well with us. The area is looking cleaner and safer."

The county-funded program was developed in May by the Los Angeles Alliance for a Drug-Free Community. The nonprofit group works with the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to sponsor informational meetings for residents and work with them to check for sites that violate liquor laws.

The activists' main weapon is a state law that restricts storefront advertising to 33% of the windows and doors and states that liquor store owners are responsible for ridding their property of loiterers, graffiti and excessive liquor advertising.

With a checklist in hand, about 50 residents break off into teams to examine stores for excessive advertising, "no loitering" signs and well-lit parking lots. They discuss problems with store employees and invite them to a session on liquor laws.

The group, which makes field visits about every 90 days, has visited 60 of the estimated 120 liquor stores in the area. Their efforts have produced positive results, said Jane McCabe, ABC district administrator.

"The project has helped residents familiarize themselves with business owners," McCabe said.

In some cases, business owners are unaware of some state laws, she said. "Now they're informed and monitor their properties more closely."

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