C-Store Moratorium

West Palm Beach concerned about drinking in public, unruliness

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- City leaders in West Palm Beach, Fla., have a vision for its Clematis Street neighborhood, and it doesn't include brown paper bags and quarts of beer, and as a result, possibly convenience stores.

A city commission recently agreed to place a three-month moratorium on new convenience stores in the Clematis waterfront district and the "Northwest neighborhood district of the city, according to a Palm Beach Post report.

After already implementing a one-year moratorium for new nightclubs, the commission now is targeting smaller stores that sell alcohol.

"We don't want people selling individual beer and people walking around Clematis," Mayor Jeri Muoio said at a recent commission workshop, according to the newspaper.

Commissioner Kimberly Mitchell questioned the proposal, saying there is already an open container law in West Palm Beach that forbids people from drinking beers in the street.

"I have not seen or heard this as a problem," Mitchell said. "I'm not sure what problem we're trying to cure."

Raphael Clemente, the interim Downtown Development Authority director who favors the convenience-store moratorium, said people shouldn't have the opportunity to purchase beer at convenience stores late at night.

Many bars and clubs on Clematis are open until 4 a.m. selling alcohol for rates much higher than convenience stores.

"What happens when people leave clubs and can go to convenience stores or some other type of establishment, buy a six-pack or a single can at 2 a.m.?" Clemente said. "We're allowing the problem to go from one place to another--a roving alcohol source."

Commissioner Ike Robinson praised the city for including the Tamarind corridor in the proposal, saying "they're not only selling cigarettes in these convenience stores, but they're doing things we know are illegal."

But Robinson, like Mitchell, also questioned the moratorium's overall purpose.

"If I'm not mistaken, convenience stores have regulations on the books already that curtail being open 24 hours a day," Robinson said. "If they are open past 12, there's something in the state regulation that says they have to have a bulletproof cage."

The commission agreed to the three-month moratorium, while city staff studies the issue.

"It's not [just] a problem of them buying a can of beer in a brown bag walking down the street," Commissioner Bill Moss said. "It's the loitering, as well, which has created all sorts of problems where they occur. The stores don't want it either; they want the people to move on."