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Bill aims to increase distance between schools and liquor stores

By Charlo Greene 7:37 PM April 9, 2014
ANCHORAGE –

Imagine being harassed by intoxicated people every time you leave school or work.

Students at Clark Middle School say that is what they’re faced with on a daily basis.

Right now, liquor stores are allowed to be 200 feet from schools, but a quick look at Clark Middle School on one side of Bragaw Street and the Brown Jug liquor store directly across from it shows why some students are reaching out to lawmakers, saying 200 feet isn’t far enough.

“All these drunks around here might not be safe for the school kids,” said new mother Amelia Reed.

Reed grew up in a dry community in Alaska, and said the proximity of some liquor stores to Anchorage schools is alarming.

Joe Harmon, a former Clark student, agrees. Harmon said when he attended Clark decades ago, he never had to deal with the problem facing students just outside of school doors because the current liquor store that sits directly across the street from the middle school was actually a convenience store then.

Even with current laws requiring a 200-foot buffer zone between schools, churches and alcohol sales, community members complain that inebriates harass students, loiter and even urinate and vomit within view of classrooms and along the way home for many students.

“It’s made them feel threatened and unsafe,” said Rep. Geran Tarr. “I see this as something about student safety. In this situation, we’ve discovered that 200 feet may not be an adequate buffer.”

Tarr introduced legislation to extend the buffer zone to 400 feet.

Some small business owners are concerned it will limit future opportunities.

“It’ll have a pro and con,” said Jewel Jones, executive director of Anchorage Community Land Trust. “Perhaps people involved in the alcohol industry might have a concern. Other businesses might feel that this is a good thing.”

If the bill becomes law, Jones said, it won’t affect any current businesses.

“It won’t change anything from the current number of stores here because it is a grandfathered clause, but for the future it certainly could have a beneficial effect,” Jones said.

While HB 336 will not affect any businesses that are already up and running, if the community feels a liquor store is causing problems, residents can approach the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board to possibly affect that business’s license renewal.

HB 336 now awaits a vote on the House Floor.

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