Tue September 10, 2013
Liquor Store Owners Propose Wet-Dry Vote for Fourth Street Live in Response to 4 a.m. Ban
A community activist and a pair of liquor store owners are proposing to hold a wet-dry vote in the precinct containing Fourth Street Live in response to Louisville Metro Councilwoman Cheri Bryant Hamilton’s bill to eliminate 4 a.m. sales.
Hamilton's ordinance is set to have a vote before the full council this Thursday, which she maintains is aimed at reducing crime and improving the quality of life.
But crime statistics obtained by WFPL show a relatively low number of alcohol-related incidents in Hamilton's district compared to others, and arrests decline during the hours being targeted by the bill.
The vast majority of liquor stores that carry special licenses allowing 4 a.m. alcohol sales are concentrated in west Louisville.
Critics of the measure argue it is a contradiction, however, for sponsors to go after package retail stores that sell liquor and wine while exempting beer. The group also points out that if alcohol-related incidents are one of the issues Hamilton and others are concerned about then the city's entertainment district needs to be targeted.
"A lot of times when I’m driving home at five o’clock in the morning when I close my store at four, I see people weaving all over the road when they’ve just gotten out of bars," says Barbara Deel, who owns Lucky Junior’s in the Portland neighborhood.
Statistics provided by Metro Police to the council found the highest number of alcohol-related incidents occurred in Councilman David Tandy's district, which covers the Russell and Smoketown neighborhoods, but most of downtown including Fourth Street Live.
Since August 2012, just under 1,500 alcohol involved incidents were reported in Tandy's district compared to just under 400 in Hamilton's area. The data shows more incidents involving alcohol took place in Councilman Tom Owen's district covering the Highlands than in Hamilton's mostly West End district.
Police figures also show that arrests involving alcohol this past year peaked at the hours from 8 p.m. to midnight, but subsequently decline until the next afternoon.
Approximately 5,400 alcohol arrests were made in the evening leading up to midnight with 4,700 up until 4 a.m., according to LMPD figures. Those arrests numbers don't climb back above 2,000 until 4 p.m.
Supporters point to police maps showing high levels of criminal activity and arrests concentrated around liquor stores, but residents believe city lawmakers are using them as an easy scapegoat.
"Cheri needs to really identify what are the true problems within her district," says John Owen, vice president of the Portland neighborhood business association. "And that’s the lack of investment, lack of economic development and issues that are tough that she doesn’t want to tackle. She’s tackling alcohol. It’s an easy target."
Over 500 residents live in the precinct surrounding Fourth Street Live, and the state only requires 73 signatures to hold a wet-dry vote. The request for a petition has been sent to the state, and would mirror a movement Hamilton led five years ago.
Police statistics cited by council members to crack down on alcohol sales do show a higher number of drug crimes in the area.
Hamilton's district, for instance, reported over 1,200 drug-related incidents in the past year. That is just below the approximately 1,300 incidents in Councilman David James's district, which includes Old Louisville and the California neighborhoods. James is also a co-sponsor of the bill.
"Alcohol really isn't the problem. The council doesn't realize how bad drugs are on the streets," says Deel. "I know my customers in the Portland area and in the West End, and there are a lot of drug deals. But my patrons are good people and the majority are not drug addicts."