A Liquor-Fueled Fight: Old Town Liquor Store Voted Down by City Council

Photo Credit: YourValley.net

In a unanimous 7-0 vote last week, the Scottsdale City Council voted down the application by liquor store owner and operator Samir Yono in his attempt to bring a liquor store to Old Town. This follows the defeated attempt to bring a marijuana dispensary to Old Town, further cementing the preservation of Old Town as a place to play, not but to bring the party home.

Mr. Yono operates several liquor stores around the valley, and in comments by Council it was made clear that the issue wasn’t with him, but with concerns about how a liquor store may alter the identity and lifestyle of the surrounding area. Councilwoman Tammy Caputi was most vocal in her opposition, citing a recent ride-along with Scottsdale Police in the area and referencing the proliferation of alcohol-related disturbances she witnessed.

The Riot Hospitality Group, owners of numerous Old Town bars and clubs, offered up around half of the public comments against the proposal. CEO Ryan Hibbert voiced concerns that slushy alcoholic drinks would be served in a “high end” area, implying that Old Town would turn into a southwestern version of the French Quarter in New Orleans. It is worth noting that their opposition isn’t so much a principled, magnanimous stand; if someone could buy liquor to-go locally, they’ll likely be less inclined to purchase beverages at one of their establishments.

Hibbert also cites the increased crime and myriad issues that typically arise in the close general vicinity of liquor stores. Studies have shown that there is merit to this charge, although what is less well known is how much of that is correlation rather than causation. In other words, there tend to be more liquor stores in higher crime areas, but that is not to say that the liquor stores are the source of the crime, but rather a symptom of existing crime.

This was considered a non-binding, advisory vote. The state liquor board is not obligated to follow this vote, and could overrule it and allow the store to go forward. However, this is relatively rare, and overturning a unanimous vote from an influential area like Scottsdale would be a bold and contentious move that would likely not be worth the hassle it might create.