Tuesday, April 16, 2019

How a new ordinance limiting the sale of packaged alcohol became a huge news story and then a forgotten non-story.

And when that ordinance passed at the Lake Worth City Commission all returned to normal like nothing had ever happened. This happened in 2016. And something like this will happen again this year in Lake Worth Beach over another ordinance of some sort. Something like this happens every year.

Maybe this year it will be an ordinance about shopping carts.

But in 2016 for over two weeks this City was in the press and news media spotlight. What had started off as an ordinary ordinance to quell neighborhood complaints became the stage for convenience store owners taking a stand and saving freedom in America and the Constitution of the United States. When these store owners spoke to the press and news media they sounded a whole lot like Paul Revere.

But what got drowned out during all this were the neighborhoods surrounding these convenience stores that were being severely impacted on a nightly basis.

Prior to that new ordinance being adopted banning the sale of packaged alcohol between the hours of 10:00 p.m.7:00 a.m. it was a media circus.

Then later on it was discovered the City Commission did the right thing.

How did the opposition respond? Complete silence. And there was complete silence from the press and the news media too. The story was over.

What happened 2½ years ago. . .

This story began when PBSO deputies were receiving numerous community complaints that people were using convenience stores like “de facto bars”, they were going in to buy a single can of beer, drinking it outside and then going back in to buy another one.

Many neighborhoods near these ‘de facto bars’ began to demand change. People were very upset about inebriated ‘customers’ spilling into nearby residential areas. There was violence and sleepless nights.

Then PBSO with City staff and the City Commission stepped up to do something about this. A new ordinance was considered, a ban on packaged alcohol sales after 10:00 p.m.

And then all hell broke loose.

This City became very big news in Palm Beach County and beyond. The press and news media were everywhere. The rumor began the use of alcohol was being banned City-wide after 10:00. This was false. This only applied to convenience stores; not bars or restaurants with a liquor license. But the rumor spread like wildfire anyway.

Business owners told reporters the City was trying to force them out of business.

Then the convenience store owners and many of their supporters in the public as well lined up outside City Hall in opposition to a proposed ordinance banning the sale of packaged alcohol after 10:00 p.m. They claimed they were not informed of what was happening. Not true. They packed City Hall and called this proposed ordinance unfair.

But then later a miraculous thing happened.

After all the noise died down and the public went on to other things everyone began to accept this new ordinance. No businesses went out of business.


Because after hearing what Commissioner Scott Maxwell had to say at City Commission meetings in November/December 2016 it became very clear that the ordinance prohibiting packaged alcohol sales after 10:00 p.m. was here to stay.

Maxwell said he was hearing positive comments and feedback from many neighborhoods and PBSO Cpt. Todd Baer confirmed that information: crime went down as a result and compliance with the ordinance was up, and community complaints became less so.

Click on image to enlarge:

Information from PBSO provided to the City Commission in early 2017.

However, at a City Commission meeting the previous September in 2016 many convenience store owners showed up to express their displeasure at public comment and during break at the dais.

Maxwell insisted that store owners, per the rules, give their home address and not their business address. It wasn’t lost on many that none of those addresses were in the City of Lake Worth.

Those business owners resided in places like Wellington, Riviera Beach, Boynton Beach, Broward County, etc. Is this significant?

Draw your own conclusions.

In conclusion.

From City staff and PBSO, what follows is the reasoning why that proposed ordinance was enacted by the City Commission:

     In response to neighborhood concerns and thanks to a new City Ordinance, it is now illegal to sell packaged alcohol products between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. The law is designed to help stop unnecessary, late night commotion associated with breaches to open container laws taking place in parking lots and outside of shopping venues
     Under the Ordinance, bar hours will not change. Restaurants and establishments with a valid liquor license may continue to serve alcohol on-site.
     The City was motivated to create the Ordinance due to numerous calls to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office about public disturbance issues surrounding packaged sales outlets. Deputies found that people were treating stores like “de facto bars,” going in, buying a single packaged item, drinking it outside and coming back in to buy more.

The End.