Despite assurances the location doesn't violate state law, the City Council on Tuesday voted 3-2 to bar a state-run liquor store from opening at 5600 South and 900 East.
Councilwoman Arline Gillen led the council opposition, saying her stand reflected the will of the people.Fred W. Jones and Leon B. Robertson sided with her, citing what they said were their worries that the store was too close - legally speaking - to a nearby beauty college. Jones and Robertson took their view in spite of city attorney Craig Hall's intrepretation of a law that precludes liquor stores from locating within 600 feet of a school. Hall noted the state code clearly exempts beauty colleges from the provision. The store entrance would have been 349 feet from the Heritage College of Beauty.
The vote leaves Murray without a liquor outlet, though the city of about 31,000 does have one of the state's two stores specializing exclusively in wine sales.
The narrow vote followed two hours of testimony, which was split between opponents who said liquor sales would be a blight upon the area and those who said local citizens have the right to drink.
"We do have proof liquor stores do pose a threat to the community," said Rosi Haidenthaller, who spoke for 15 minutes on behalf of the opposition and said the proposed liquor outlet would attract drunks to the area.
Haidenthaller said the store would be a safety hazard to youths who frequent the surrounding shopping centers and walk to and from school in the area and that it might prove irresistibly alluring, offering "such a visible temptation to young people."
Haidenthaller said much of her argument was based on a "survey" of a handful of other liquor stores in the Salt Lake Valley and one stakeout in particular in which she and other liquor opponents spent 21/2 hours in front of a Redwood Road liquor store watching what they said was unseemly behavior.
Her report on that effort included sightings of a man urinating in the store parking lot and another picking up cigarette butts in the area. She said liquor stores attract "the homeless and transients. . . . Why do we have to expose our children to these kinds of individuals?"
She said those on the stakeout also saw several young people try unsuccessfully to buy liquor at the store and saw four violations of the state's open-container law. Haidenthaller also said members of her group noted "a lot of reckless driving" at the store, though she said, "I guess that happens at Albertsons, too."
Haidenthaller's remarks were supported by several others.
One man said his neighbor's life would be ruined by the store because the man is an alcoholic who cannot drive but would be able to walk to the liquor outlet if it opens: "For my neighbor, it's not healthy."
David E. Richardson, a store opponent, said, "Fifteen percent of the patrons are intoxicated when they come in," though he offered no documentation for his claim.
And a local woman argued that the store might harm the "many types of wildlife in this area," including "skunks, fowls and falcons."
The proposed liquor-store site, at the southwest corner of 5600 South and 900 East, is in an area of considerable commercial development, which includes a Gart Bros. Sporting Goods store, a Pic N' Save, a Payless Drug Store and dozens of other retailers and fast-food restaurants. Formerly located at 5140 S. State, the store is being relocated, according to the state Alcohol Beverage Control Department, because its former landlord wasn't able to meet department building standards. The State Street store closed in January.
Supporters of the move also spoke up Tuesday.
"Yes, it will generate traffic, but far less than a Hardee's," said Robert Perry, arguing that a nearby fast-food restaurant draws more vehicles than the store would. State officials estimate the liquor outlet would attract as many as 800 customers per day.
William Evans, one of the co-owners of the shopping center at the southwest corner of the intersection, said "unsubstantiated scare tactics" were used in battling the relocation.
"Buying spirits is not illegal, nor is it immoral," said Evans. "There is no more danger than from the nearby stores where beer is sold."
Bill Roderick, the property manager, countered arguments that parking was insufficient at the site by noting 40 stalls had been reserved for the 5,000-square-foot store and that a sprawling lot around the 16-acre retail complex usually has plenty of open spaces.
Larry Hoskins, who said he lives a half-block from the site and raised seven children in the area, said he was "amazed by the imaginations, distortions and lies" submitted by the opposition.
In casting their "no" votes, Gillen, Jones and Robertson did not offer suggestions for alternate locations. Dennis Kellen, an alcohol control representative at the hearing, said the city suggested the site in the first place and that the process of finding a location began in May 1991.
Councilman P. Gary Ferrero and Lynn H. Turner voted in favor of putting the store at the site.
"It's as good or better than any location," said Ferrero, who acknowledged the opposition's concerns but said, "We also need to look after the rights of those who will use and frequent a liquor store. I don't think that's being considered."