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Changing downtown prompts city to curtail single-serve alcohol sales

By Bob Conrad

Up to 4,000 new residential units are coming to downtown Reno in the next 10 years. That’s according to City of Reno officials who said yesterday the changing face of downtown needs to translate into a cleaner and safer environment.

“Downtown is a neighborhood,” said Alex Woodley, code enforcement manager for the city. “Our downtown is becoming a dynamic, eclectic … neighborhood. Those residents are going to need services.”

Recent actions by the Reno City Council to clean up downtown include renaming Center Street, a new Virginia Street “placemaking study,” Jacobs Entertainment’s yet unknown development plans for West Fourth Street, a whip ban, moving homeless services to the Cares Campus, and now, curtailing the sale of single-serve alcoholic beverages.

Small, family owned convenience stores within a new “Downtown Safe Scape and Buffer Area” are being targeted by city officials for creating what they said are disproportionate police calls.

The new area extends west from as far as West Seventh Street and Keystone Avenue to Sutro Street east of downtown. From the south, the buffer is close to the roundabout at Center and South Virginia Streets and as far north as West Eleventh Street.

Woodley said the new city ordinance to prohibit single-serve alcohol within that zone follows what other cities, such as Las Vegas and Fresno, California, have done. 

“The top 20 calls for service of all convenience stories, eight of them are located in the downtown area.”

Single-serve alcohol from convenience stores is consumed off the business’ premise. That’s creating security problems, and officials said 13 businesses downtown–which comprise 9% of the total businesses that sell packaged liquor in Reno–are responsible for 20% of service calls within the city.

“One business for the past several years, I would say five to six years, has been the number one call for service location in the entire city of Reno, and that business is within this downtown area core,” Woodley said. “The top 20 calls for service of all convenience stories, eight of them are located in the downtown area.”

Single containers of beer, malt liquor and wine coolers will be prohibited when the ordinance gets final approval. Its first hearing yesterday passed unanimously. Larger containers, Woodley said, are difficult to hide if somebody is in public. 

“There is not a prohibition from selling alcohol,” Woodley said. “It’s just that these requirements are requiring a minimal size.”

The city also wants to mandate fresh food to be sold at these stores. Fresh or frozen food should comprise 10% of retail floor space. The businesses have 18 months to change their business practices to comply with the new regulations. 

“What we want for a downtown neighborhood is convenience stores that have a different business model which is more focused on selling those products that all of our residents want and need from their convenience stores,” Woodley said. 

Most public comments submitted to the council were opposed to the new measure. 

“Passing a law to only sell large amounts of alcohol would not only cause a lot of problems, but could also increase the odds of becoming an alcoholic,” one person wrote in opposition. “Currently, I buy one drink a night and abstain from having more. However, if the law is passed, I will have to buy more alcohol instead of one per night.”

Another comment:

“I work in Stead and every day I ride the bus to and from work. After work I occasionally buy a beer or a drink on my [way] home. I limit myself to one drink because my husband does not like it when I drink too much. I do not want to have to come home from work and buy more [than] I have to.”

A representative for The ROW casinos wrote in support of the ordinance.

Other city council actions

The Reno City Council also approved the Center Street name change.

Further council actions provided by city staff:

Collective bargaining

Council approved Collective Bargaining Agreements between the City of Reno and Local 39, Non-Supervisory and Supervisory Units, for the period of Feb. 1, 2021 – June 30, 2023, in the amounts of:

  • $2,847,990.50 for the current fiscal year, and $2,696,508.07 for the following fiscal year. (Non-Supervisory Unit)
  • $431,997.34 for the current fiscal year, and $405,084.60 for the following fiscal year. (Supervisory Unit) 

Jardon elected as vice mayor

Council moved to elect Reno City Council member Neoma Jardon to serve as Reno’s Vice Mayor for a one-year period.  

Water purification

OneWater Nevada Advanced Purified Water Project Interlocal agreement 

Council approved an interlocal agreement with the Truckee Meadows Water Authority (TMWA), including cost-share and revenue share for all project components for the implementation of the OneWater Nevada Advanced Purified Water Demonstration Project at American Flat, with cost-sharing in the anticipated sum of $102,994,400, with the City of Reno’s share anticipated at $72,096,080 to be allocated from the Sewer Fund. It’s important to note this agenda item is an agreement on how the City of Reno and TMWA will work together, and not the authority to spend funds or the final decision to proceed with the project. 

New ward boundaries

Council directed staff to bring back Map Option B with updates made to the downtown area. This item will be heard again at the next Reno City Council meeting on Nov. 17, 2021. 

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