Council Approves Limiting Liquor Stores Downtown

City of Reno, Nevada
By  | 

The Reno City Council approved a new ordinance on Wednesday to reduce the number of stores selling packaged liquor in the downtown redevelopment area by more than half.

But store owners say that while they have worked with the city in the past including closing early during special events like Hot August Nights the new proposal would go too far.

And the Council listened.

Silver Spur Liquor owner Tony Bhatia said closing early cost him money, but the new policy would limit a store owner's ability to sell the business.

The Council asked the city attorney's office to meet with the licensees to see if there were options that might make owners more able to sell their businesses.

As part of a campaign to make downtown more appealing to visitors, the Council approved a plan to cut the number of liquor stores downtown from the current to 14 by limiting package liquor licenses. There are 34 package liquor licensees in the downtown area and one beer package licensee.

A City officials have said reducing the number of liquor stores would lead to a decrease in alcohol-related offenses and panhandling downtown.

Owners of existing liquor stores would keep their licenses, but someone interested in buying the business could not obtain a license until the number of liquor stores falls below 14.

Bhatia said nobody would buy his store unless the license comes along with the deed.

"Basically I feel I've been cheated out of my life," he said. Bhatia bought Silver Spur in 1996 and intended to sell the business in the next few years.

Bhatia and about 10 other downtown liquor store owners, many of them immigrants from India, have joined to fight the proposed liquor store cap.

Despite arguments from the group's lawyer, Peter Smith, the City Council gave initial approval to the cap on Nov. 19.

If the city wants to eliminate downtown liquor stores, officials should buy the businesses at a fair price, Bhatia said.

Bhatia said he bought Silver Spur and its inventory for about $250,000 in 1996. He said the store and its inventory now would be worth about $550,000 to a buyer able to get a package liquor license.

The 39-year-old father of two said profits from the sale would help him send his children to college.

"People go into this with a big assumption. They don't expect this to happen," Bhatia said.