A Salt Lake liquor store is contributing to the transformation of west-side Salt Lake City into a "combat zone," according two City Council members, who want the outlet closed.
Florence Bittner and Wayne Horrocks appeared before the state Liquor Control Commission on Friday, seeking commissioners' cooperation in addressing complaints about transients buying inexpensive vodka at a liquor store at 54 N. Eighth West.But the commission responded coolly to relocating the facility, saying that moving it could shift problems to other parts of the city where bans on fortified wines already have curbed some alcohol-related disturbances.
"It's very close to the transient shelters in the area, and people who live in the district are complaining," said Bittner, referring to the Salt Lake Community Homeless and Resource Shelter at 210 S. Rio Grande.
"The city has a continuing problem there with drugs and prostitution. . . . In effect, we have created what other cities call a combat zone," she said.
Complicating the scenario, Bittner said, is the American Plasma Management Donor Center, 606 W. North Temple, where customers can earn $8 twice weekly by donating blood plasma.
"They go early in the morning to the plasma center . . . and take the money and go buy a bottle of cheap vodka and sneak off into the bushes of people's homes," Bittner said.
She asked the commission for help in bringing peace to the area. "If the liquor store were not so immediately available, then one piece of the problem will be solved," she said.
Commission Chairman J.B. Ritchie, agreeing only to look at the council members' request, said preliminary studies of a fortified wine sale ban at four stores show that people are simply moving elsewhere to buy wine.
That phenomenon forces the commission to consider the problems other parts of the city would face if the liquor store were to close, Ritchie said.
"You can't deal with the problem in your area, and we can't deal with one part of the problem in the larger puzzle," Ritchie said.
After an appeal from Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis, the liquor commission prohibited sale of fortified, or alcohol-strengthened wines, at some stores, including one at 205 W. Fourth South, near Pioneer Park, a transient haven.
Businesses in the area report a decrease in the number of alcohol-related incidents involving transients, and the mayor has given his blessing to continuing the ban.
Bittner has said in the past that she favors closing two liquor stores, both of which are a short distance from the city's homeless shelter and other social service centers.
"We can't stop fighting this," Bittner said, "because the minute we do we're going to have a slum in Salt Lake City."
Ritchie agreed to a meeting between city and commission staffs to, in Bittner's words, "begin a process to get started looking at this."