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City Council Votes to Curb Alcohol Outlet Problems

By Judith Scherr
Friday December 14, 2007

In an effort to stop liquor stores, bars and restaurants from selling alcohol to minors—and to make sure these establishments meet specific standards set by the city—the City Council voted 8-0 Tuesday to give the city new tools to regulate businesses that sell alcohol. 

In other matters, the council approved electromagnetic field testing near new telecommunication antenna sites, discussed condominium conversion in a two-hour workshop, hired a non-union security company to guard the corporation yard and promised a workshop in March on the question of undergrounding telephone wires. 


Alcohol-serving establishments regulated 

The council voted unanimously, with Councilmember Laurie Capitelli absent, to set standards for vendors of alcohol that include keeping the establishment free of graffiti and litter and well-lighted, keeping records of employees including hours worked, logging calls to law enforcement, refusing to serve persons who are drunk and who drink nearby in public, reporting people who make excessive noise in public, impair the free use of the sidewalk outside the establishment, engage in intimidating conduct and more to police. 

The law provides for new code enforcement staff who will inspect restaurants and bars once each year and outlets that sell alcohol to take off-site four times each year.  

“The operating standards in this ordinance are exemplary,” said Berkeley Alcohol Policy Advocacy Coalition Secretary Lori Lott, thanking city staff for including all alcohol venders—those that serve alcohol on-site and those that sell it for off-site use—in the inspection program. 

While councilmembers agreed that standards should be set and inspections done, they disagreed on how fees should be charged.  

Councilmembers Linda Maio and Kriss Worthington argued for a tiered rate, where restaurants would be charged less, but could not get a majority vote.  

“Liquor stores create a greater problem. If we’re putting more resources into liquor stores, they have to pay more,” Maio argued. 

“People are leaving our restaurants drunk and people [in restaurants] are serving underaged youth,” Moore said, pushing for the flat rate of $476, which won unanimously after the tiered rate lost 4-2-3, with Maio, Worthington, Gordon Wozniak and Mayor Tom Bates in support, Councilmembers Darryl Moore and Betty Olds in opposition and Councilmembers Max Anderson and Dona Spring abstaining. 


Testing cell antenna sites 

At Tuesday’s meeting, the City Council unanimously approved a plan to test electromagnetic field levels, including radiation levels, around UC Storage at Shattuck Avenue and Ward Street and close to the French Hotel on Shattuck near Vine Street.  

Cell-phone antennas are slated to go up at both sites in the near future. “It is necessary to have measurements quickly as the installations are imminent,” says the report, authored by the four sponsors of the measure: Spring, Maio, Anderson and Bates.  

Addressing the council, Michie McCon-nell said that in allowing the antennas to go up, the city compromised the health of residents and permitted “corporate control of cities.”  

She added that the city needs a stronger telecommunications ordinance: “We should have done that long ago.” 

The resolution also asks staff to begin work revising the ordinance. 


The council also: 

• Adopted the second reading of the Public Commons for Everyone Initiative ordinances that expand the area in which people lying on the sidewalks can be cited and increase restrictions on smoking in public places. The laws go into effect in 30 days. 

• Held a two-hour workshop on making changes in the condominium conversion law including eventual modifications to make the process quicker and easier to understand. They also discussed the possibility of bringing work up to code only when health and safety issues are in question and lowering fees. 

• Gave Securitas Security Services a contract to guard the corporation yard, with Councilmember Kriss Worthington objecting because Securitas is non-union. 

• Called for a workshop on undergrounding utilities to see exactly where utilities have been undergrounded and to talk about future undergrounding along main arteries for use during emergencies.