Proposed bill would outlaw new drive-thru liquor stores in Ariz.

By Bob Purvis
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday February 2, 2004

PHOENIX - A Tucson legislator has proposed a bill that would outlaw the establishment of new drive-thru liquor stores.

Rep. Linda Lopez, D-Tucson, who introduced a bill that would outlaw smoking in public, is also sponsoring a bill that would keep liquor stores with a drive-thru window from getting a new liquor license after the proposed law took effect in September.

The bill wouldn't impact existing pull-up liquor stores, but it would not allow new drive-thrus owners or someone buying an existing store with a pull-up window to acquire licenses.

In time, the liquor store drive-thru window would become extinct.

According to Lopez, being able to drive up and buy beer indirectly condones drinking and driving, but more importantly, it leads to crime, litter and loitering in neighborhoods surrounding the liquor stores.

"It really is a nuisance to the neighborhoods. ... They drive drunk in the neighborhoods, throwing bottles and cans and trash out the windows," Lopez said, adding that they seem to target poor neighborhoods. "I'd like to see where there's a drive-thru liquor store in an affluent neighborhood. I haven't seen one yet."

Lopez was asked to present the bill by Yolanda Herrera, president of the Sunnyside Neighborhood Association, who said the high number of drive-thru liquor stores has driven down the quality of life in the neighborhood.

"It entices people to drink and drive," Herrera said. "Oftentimes, people don't wait to get home to open up their beverage."

The drive-thru liquor stores affect the entire neighborhood as drinkers congregate in empty lots and strew their trash anywhere they please, Herrera said.

"It affects everything," Herrera said. "It's a blight on our quality of life."

Herrera, a former DUI diversion counselor, said the stores encourage people to drink while driving.

"We don't want people to drink and drive, and these stores are sending the wrong message," Herrera said.

Richard Berger, owner of U of A Liquors at the corner of East Sixth Street and North Park Avenue, said the bill's backers are misguided.

"It's ludicrous. What difference is it going to make by asking someone to step out of their vehicle and walk inside to buy a 40-ounce of Bud instead of having them buy it from a car?" Berger said. "I don't really think it will accomplish what it is aiming to do.

But Ken Kuehhl, a material science and engineering sophomore, said he supports Lopez's bill.

"On the drive-thru bars, I think they're a terrible idea. It can only aid in increasing the number of people driving drunk," he said.

Matt Derr, a psychology sophomore, said he also disagrees with the idea of drive-thru liquor stores.

"The whole idea of a drive-thru bar is an oxymoron, considering how horrible drunk driving is in the first place," he said.

Berger said he has never had complaints from people in the neighborhood and he keeps the area around his store in spotless condition. He said a poorly run convenience store could cause the same problems that Lopez blames on drive-thru stores.

"It certainly doesn't provide any more or less blight to a neighborhood than any other store. It's not going to matter if there's a drive-thru or not," Berger said.

A major incentive the drive-thru window provides for liquor storeowners, aside from convenience for customers, is that it gives employees working late at night more safety, Berger said.

"I care about the safety of my customers and my employees, and I think a drive-thru is a positive when it comes to protecting those two groups," Berger said.

Lopez said she is not trying to play morality police or be a party-pooper with her bills.

"Trust me, I love to party. But we should not impose our personal rights at the sake of others' health and well-being," Lopez said.

- Dana Crudo contributed to this report.