Last call for alcohol: appeal court could set legal precedent
Thunderbird Burgers may have won the court battle for the right to serve alcohol until 2 a.m., but it hasn’t won the war.
The city of Boulder plans to appeal the district court’s January ruling to a higher court in attempt to clarify laws about zoning restrictions and their effects on alcohol regulation.
An appeal in favor of Thunderbird could set a legal precedent guaranteeing all Boulder businesses with a liquor license the right to serve alcohol until the state-regulated 2 a.m. deadline.
The official appeal notice is due March 5. After it is submitted, a date for the case can be determined.
The prior court decision said the 11 p.m. serving limit imposed on Thunderbird by the city contradicts state law.
Assistant City Attorney Sandra Llanes said the city’s appeal is “about protecting the zoning system.”
“If we accept the court’s ruling, then it calls the entire system into question,” Llanes said. “Also, it could be to the detriment of businesses if the court decides to make an all-or-nothing decision.”
The Hill is considered a mixed zoning interface area, which means it falls under the category of both a residential and commercial area. The city imposes unique zoning restrictions on several alcohol-serving businesses in these areas in an effort to mitigate adverse, off-site effects.
Thunderbird owner Brett Berger said his business abides by all the conditions of the zoning laws except the serving hours limitation.
“My concerns are noise, trash and belligerence,” Berger said. “But I’ve never had a violation. I’ve got a good record, and I don’t have any negative impacts on the neighborhood.”
At least one Hill resident doesn’t think Thunderbird should be limited in its serving hours.
“I live a few houses down, and there are no problems,” said Grant Kleinwachter, a senior business major who lives at 933 14th St.
Kleinwachter agreed that the Hill experiences a lot of noise and crime, but questions if Thunderbird is solely responsible.
“I think it’s not fair to Thunderbird. Any place a block away could be held accountable,” Kleinwachter said.
Among the conditions imposed on Thunderbird is a ban on any contest, tournament or event involving the consumption of alcohol.
“The drinking tourney rule is specific to my business,” Berger said. “But we only do Beirut tournaments. They want to perceive it as reckless binge drinking.”
Berger said the Beirut games played in Thunderbird did not require dangerous amounts of drinking.
“The game can go on for 45 minutes, and it only involves one pitcher, which is four beers, divided between two people,” Berger said.
Other conditions include a size limitation of 1,842 square feet and a seat maximum of 49 indoor seats.
Many college towns in Colorado have similar strategies for controlling the impact of alcohol sales.
According to a public e-mail correspondence between Deputy Mayor Suzy Ageton and City Attorney Ariel Calonne, Denver explicitly permits and contemplates restrictions of the hours alcoholic beverages may be sold in outdoor seating areas.
Greeley has a specific entertainment establishment category that requires a review of hours of operation, security and maintenance.
Fort Collins forbids alcohol service in certain zoning districts but does not address CSU specifically.
For more information visit the City of Boulder Web site.
Contact Campus Press Staff Writer James Collector at firstname.lastname@example.org.