Waterloo looks at tougher stance for liquor licenses - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Waterloo looks at tougher stance for liquor licenses


The city of Waterloo is looking to step up regulations on liquor stores.  Last year, a string of crime and violence near liquor stores in Waterloo pushed the city to deny multiple liquor license requests and eventually place a moratorium on requests for new liquor licenses.  The state overturned most of those denials, since business owners didn't violate city code. 

The moratorium has given the city time to draft changes to zoning rules, which it hopes will prevent future problems with liquor store locations.

Waterloo is home to a lot of liquor stores—stores that the city has heard many concerns about in the past year.

"If a store sells liquor or is a liquor store and is a good neighbor, we welcome them.  But if they are attracting the wrong kind of people with a lot of loitering and littering, those kinds of things, that brings down the rest of the businesses in the neighborhood," said Mary Potter with the Church Row Neighborhood Association.

Those concerns are exactly why the city's looking to beef up its zoning ordinance when it comes to granting new liquor stores a license.

"We're not going to ever completely stop crime in the city of Waterloo.  But I think we'll have a positive effect on at least those infractions that were related to alcohol related venues," said Waterloo Mayor Buck Clark.

The zoning ordinance change would separate a license as either "alcohol use" or "limited alcohol use".  Businesses with a limited license would have to get at least half their revenues from non-alcohol products.  The products would have to take up 75% of a store's floor space.

Currently, many liquor stores are able to meet the 50% non-alcohol revenue requirement, through tobacco and lotto ticket sales, which couldn't be counted toward the 50% goal under the new rules.

"If you're a legitimate grocery store or convenience store and you're not just using that as a ruse to get a liquor license--that you're actually selling food, milk, bread and apples, etc.  And I think we've got rules in place now that will do that," said Mayor Clark.

Also in the proposed changes is an agreement similar to the one established with Five Star Snacks and Liquor last year.  New stores selling liquor would be required to monitor activity around the business, doing anything possible to prevent things like loitering, littering, and open container violations.  The city and neighborhoods hope those changes will continue to help curb violence.

"We want to have people feeling that they are friendly and that they're secure and safe," Potter said.

The proposed changes would only apply to new businesses looking to get a liquor license.  The city council is expected to vote on the new policies at its meeting Monday.

Under the proposed ordinance changes, new liquor stores applying for a "non-limited" alcohol license would also have to be at least 600-feet from protected use areas, including homes, schools, and churches.  However, non-limited alcohol uses would need a special permit from the board of adjustment, unless they are on a primary road or in the downtown C-3 zoning district.  A limited alcohol use wouldn't face setback requirements from other liquor sales businesses or from protected use spaces.

The ordinance change would also not apply to hotels and restaurants that are limited alcohol uses, open air events lasting fewer than four days, golf courses, publicly owned sports facilities, educational centers or museums hosting special events.

Additional Note:

Mayor Buck Clark also notes that over the past several months, the alcohol moratorium combined with increase police presence has helped reduce problems at and around liquor stores.  He says that is evident with the continued drop in the city's crime rate.



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