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1,000 foot rule bent?

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May 9, 2007

Did Albany city commissioners bend the rules by granting an alcohol license to a new nightclub? Some business owners say yes, and that's fine, so long as they get the same treatment.

Business owner Bo Henry would like to open up a bar in Downtown Albany.  Problem is, he can't. The location considered is within 1000 feet of another bar. "There are already people that are interested in doing some bars down here, myself included, to have some nightlife down here if it were to work out," said Henry.

But it can't "work out" because of a current ordinance that basically says no new alcohol license can be issued for a bar within 1,000 feet of an existing bar. Henry says that ordinance didn't seem to apply in a recent decision. "I think they made an exception to the rule," he said.

Christopher King, the owner of Club Fahrenheit, was permitted an alcohol license, even though his club is just across a parking lot from another club. "When I looked at the ordinance, it was risky," said King.  "But I knew there was a way, but it wasn't my part to find a way."

He was actually denied the license at first, because marshals said the two clubs were too close together. The distance was originally measured through perhaps the most logical route, across the parking lot, from the front door of El Corral to the front door of Fahrenheit, but that didn't meet the distance requirement and Lott decided to take a second look at the ordinance.

The city manager says this was an unusual situation, having a bar in a parking lot. But the ordinance is cut and dry. It says the distance should be measured along the nearest practical street route, not across a parking lot. "You can measure it however you want to," said Henry. "I guess that's the way they got that one done, they measured it their way. If they can have that out there then they should be able to do that for downtown Albany."

Any way you measure it, King is just happy the city gave him permission to open up. "I got the license, they found a way, so we are very happy." And Henry says he would be too, if he got the O-K. "Maybe they could measure that way for all of the bars," said Henry. Or better yet, he says, get rid of the 1,000 foot rule for bars altogether.

City Manager Alfred Lott says he actually visited the site himself to make sure the club was in compliance.

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