City leaders in Waterloo are imposing tougher regulations on convenience and liquor stores after a growing number of police calls to such establishments. Waterloo City Council member Quentin Hart helped draft an ordinance to address problems with loitering, fights and open alcohol containers outside the liquor stores.

“The goal is not to stifle business. We want to help our businesses in certain areas be a little more accountable to maintaining their premises,” Hart said. The push to restrict the growing number of liquor stores in Waterloo started several years ago when the council voted to keep the businesses several hundred feet away from protect public areas such as churches, day cares, parks, schools and homes. City Planner Arik Schroeder says those changes didn’t quite work.

“It wasn’t quite doing everything we thought it would do, so we’re tweaking the language a little more, making it a little more restrictive,” Schroeder said. Shops or convenience stores selling alcohol need at least half their sales to be in something other than liquor in order to locate near a protected public area.

This also includes an establishment exceeding 25% in hard liquor sales. Starting next month, cigarettes, lottery tickets and gas will not be considered a “non-alcohol” sale. If a shop can’t meet those requirements, it can’t move within 600 feet of a protected public area.

“I think it’s really going to help clean up the image of the community and prevent the proliferation of alcohol sales,” Schroeder said. City officials say liquor stores were able to hide under the title of a convenience store under the old ordinance. The new changes, Hart says, will keep business owners honest about their alcohol sales.

A separate ordinance also requires shops to employ “reasonable methods” to prevent loitering, littering and other violations from happening in the areas around their premises. A store with too many police visits or violations could be closed down.

By Jillian Petrus, KCRG-TV, Cedar Rapids