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Current Bridgeport focus: liquor outlet zoning rules

Any person needing confirmation that municipal zoning relevant to liquor outlets and sales can be thorny and contentious business need look no further these days than Bridgeport. A recent media spotlighting of an ongoing dispute in that city notes that it is "so controversial that the [city] planning department is seeking a consultant's perspective."

We allude to liquor law's complexities on our website at Berdon, Young & Margolis in New Haven. We note therein that detailed state and federal regulations already on the books are often rendered even more complicated by an "intersection of local zoning, fire and health regulations."

The swirling complexities -- and attendant acrimony of parties who have taken polar-opposite positions on the matter -- are evident in Bridgeport, where city officials are seeking to supplant current zoning rules applicable to liquor package stores with new requirements.

A city zoning rule presently dictates that no alcohol can be sold by a store that is within 1,500 feet of places like schools, churches and hospitals. The lightning-rod proposal recently advanced by the city's planning department suggests cutting that distance restriction in half.

Bridgeport's planning director says that the proposal is solidly objective, with a 750-foot constraint being more "business friendly" to local establishments. Moreover, she adds, enactment would also affect corner stores that currently have no restrictions at all.

Local opposition to the plan has been widespread, vocal and largely negative. "It is not going to make life better," stated one critic at a recent zoning hearing.

The Bridgeport superintendent of schools was more succinct in criticizing the proposal, calling it "unconscionable."

The matter continues to play out, with debate certain to be strident at Bridgeport's next zoning meeting slated for later this month.

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