Liquor License Bills

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Two bills have been proposed in the state legislature that would make changes to a business getting a liquor license. One would implement a higher bar for neighborhoods protesting a liquor license application. Another bill would allow certain liquor stores to be located within 300 feet of a school, daycare center or church. Neighborhood activist Jeff Spellman will discuss the bills.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon," I'm Ted Simons. Two proposed bills at the state legislature look to change regulations regarding liquor licenses. One bill would raise the bar for neighborhoods protesting a liquor license application. Another bill would allow certain stores selling liquor to be located closer to churches and schools. Joining us now is neighborhood activist Jeff Spellman who opposes the changes. We should note we invited a sponsor of the bill, Representative Thomas "T.J." Shope, Representative Shope stepped but then canceled citing a busy legislative schedule.

Ted Simons: We'll start with 59, raising the bar for these applications. What does the bill call for?

Jeff Spellman: The bill calls for -- in order for a neighborhood or even an individual to voice opposition against any liquor license, they would first have to go out into the community and gather 5% signature from the people who live within a one-mile radius of that opposed application. That's essentially what it is. There's a lot of problems with how that would happen F. that's even reasonably attainable. Given the fact that you only have 15 days to do that.

Ted Simons: Current law, just one person is all that's needed, correct?

Jeff Spellman: One person can. There were changes in law back in 2011 that actually changed and differentiated -- put people into two different classes: Those that support a license and those that are opposed to a license. And that changed. There were some additions at that point. If you're an individual person you could voice your concern. If you are part of an organized group you had to have a letter that authorized you to speak on behalf of that group.

Ted Simons: Now it's 5% within one mile or 25 people, one or the other. Is -- does that help at all as far as you're concerned?

Jeff Spellman: We literally just looked a few minutes ago and that is nowhere on record at the state legislature. Both of these build, have both passed out of thehouse House. Neither have that amendment on them. Now perhaps the sponsors are talking about that as it now moves into the Senate and that could be. But we have issues with that, too. The bottom line is in Arizona we are blessed with citizens being able to have a voice in their government processes, in the Democratic process. And to say that anybody can't have a voice before they go out and collect X number of signatures is against that Democratic process. Aside from that, that number, whatever that number ends up being, 5%, what's magical about 5%? Why didn't it be 10% or 20% or 25? 25% of what? What is X? We don't even know what that is. Nobody will be able to tell us what X is.

Ted Simons: Determining a population count becomes problematic. It sounds like the 25, if not now, would soon be put in there. Does that help at all?

Jeff Spellman: Well, I suppose if you think it's a little bit more lenient and becomes a little easier for someone to have a voice. But my point is, why are you afraid of what could be two little old ladies coming down to the liquor board and saying, this is what I've found out about a potential applicant. You should listen to this before you make a decision. Now the individuals don't make the decision, the liquor board makes the decision. Why wouldn't you want to hear from whether it's one person, 25 people or 100 people? Those people should have their voice heard in a Democrat, process we have in our state.

Ted Simons: Let's get to HB 2360. This calls for certain liquor sellers to be alright within 300 feet of schools and churches and day care centers. Why is that a bad idea?

Jeff Spellman: We have those distance requirements right now to provide some protection from certain locations, churches and schools. And I suppose to get right to the point, if we didn't have that, you go over to central L.A. and look and see, there might be a liquor store on every corner, next to every church or school, and they don't have those kinds of requirements there. Is that what we want in Arizona? I would venture to say we don't. The restrictions are in there to protect children going and coming to school every day, they deserve that level of protection. And so why would we want to have liquor stores right next door?

Ted Simons: Now we should note that there are some conditions here. They must have 4500 square feet, no drive-thru service, only apply to a nine or ten license, only half the revenue has to come from liquor. They have to sell fresh produce, as well. Sounds like what they are saying, if someone wants to open a little grocery store within 300 feet of a school, day care center or church this would now be allowed. Do you have a problem with that?

Jeff Spellman: I do. 300 feet is really nothing. We just dealt with an application in our immediate neighborhood and they literally were just like 85 feet outside of that distance. And this is just like kitty-corner from a high school. 300 feet is not very far. To change that and say you can be inside that limit, again, how much are you going to allow? And then pretty soon there will be these types of establishments next to every church and every school.

Ted Simons: Does it make a difference if we have exemptions for hotels and restaurants and these sorts of things?

Jeff Spellman: There are some exemptions in the law already. The difference on those, those are usually on-site consumption, a restaurant or something like that. People aren't going in and picking up liquor and walking out and doing whatever they do. It's controlled on site in those exempted locations.

Ted Simons: Why are you specifically interested so much in these two bills?

Jeff Spellman: I've worked now for 18 years as a neighborhood advocate to try to keep my voice heard at policy levels. And this bill impacts and dilutes our Democratic process, makes it easier for organized crime to obtain liquor licenses, and it allows schools to be impacted by a liquor store. Is that what we want for our state? I say no.

Ted Simons: Thank you so much for joining us, we appreciate it.

Jeff Spellman: Thank you, Ted.

Jeff Spellman:Neighborhood Activist;

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