In Arizona, the state is the sole regulator of the sale and purchase of alcoholic beverages, while cities use local zoning laws to determine the location of establishments where sales or consumption take place.
Where these sets of rules may intersect is at the heart of a Scottsdale nightclub’s lawsuit against the city.
In 2003, Scottsdale added to its regulation of such businesses under general zoning ordinances the requirement of a conditional use permit. This was created as an additional safeguard designed to keep some distance between residential areas and bars, the latter having the propensity to be the location of inebriate behavior.
But as Jeff Gross, attorney for Next Lounge & Nightclub, told reporter Brian Powell in Tuesday’s Tribune, if an establishment had already received the City Council’s favorable recommendation for state approval of its bar-only liquor license, can that same council later deny it a conditional use permit?
This is where Next, 7111 E. Fifth Ave., finds itself. The council green-lighted its path to receive its state liquor license in 2004, but that was 1 1 /2 years before the council turned down its application for a conditional use permit. Next was one of several existing establishments with liquor licenses that has more recently had to go before the council to also obtain a permit. All but Next have received them.
In June, the City Council denied Next such a permit and shortly afterward the city ordered the club to stop operating as a bar within 14 days. It has continued to operate because, as Powell reported, its owner sued the city in July. Powell reported that the city did not follow up on its order until late August, when it asked a Maricopa County Superior Court judge to close it down.
Scottsdale has recently shown a lack of understanding regarding its role in liquor regulation. Last December a draft of the new Sexually Oriented Businesses Ordinance — that is the subject of next Tuesday’s public vote on Proposition 401 — originally contained a liquor-sales regulation provision that was removed at the request of the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control, which asserted its sole authority over liquor sales.
City and state officials were to have met this week to talk about the roles of local and state governments in such matters.
Next is the subject of litigation, so any decision on closing it should wait until the conclusion of the suit. The city should withdraw its request to have the court shut it down beforehand.