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‘It Will Be Harlem In The 1960s’–The Battle To Preserve The 1,500 Foot Booze Rule

January 19th, 2016 · 24 Comments · Development and Zoning

Rich Augustynowicz, owner of Discount Wines & Liquors of Bridgeport on Wood Avenue, is leading the charge against a petition by land use attorney Chuck Willinger for the Planning & Zoning Commission to reduce the 1,500 foot rule prohibiting the sale of alcohol near a house of worship, school, daycare center or another package store. The P&Z will conduct a public hearing January 25, 6:45 p.m. in City Council Chambers regarding Willinger’s request to reduce the distance to 750 feet after Superior Court Judge Dale Radcliffe overturned a zoning decision he said benefited a politically connected applicant.

A few weeks ago Radcliffe ruled that the “fix was in” condemning political influence that approved an application for a package store opponents argued violated state law including former Republican State Senator Rob Russo, the lone dissenter on the Zoning Board of Appeals decision. Radcliffe ruled “Because the variances granted by the Bridgeport Zoning Board of Appeals are a condition precedent to the lawful operation of a package store at 1044 Brooklawn Avenue, Bridgeport, the Defendant, Michael DeFillipo, is ordered to immediately cease and desist from the use of any portion of 1044 Brooklawn Avenue, as a package store.”

Last spring a steady stream of city politicians lobbied the ZBA to approve the package store application. The applicant hired Bridgeport land use guru Willinger to make the presentation to the ZBA. Willinger argued a hardship was present because the 1,500 foot rule prevents the building from being used for the desired purpose. He also claimed hardship based on the “need for this type of use.”

Radlciffe overturned the ZBA. Now Willinger has requested that the P&Z lower the 1,500 foot rule.

Augustynowicz, a retired Stamford police officer raised in The Bronx, New York, told OIB if the 1,500 foot rule is reduced to 750. Bridgeport will become “Harlem in the 1960s.”

He issued an email blast to the City Council, mayor’s office and other officials urging support to reject the proposed rule change. See below:

On its agenda for January 25th, 2016, at 6:45PM, the Zoning Board will have before them an issue brought forth by Willinger & Bucci P.C., requesting to change the rule that prohibits the sale of alcohol within 1500 feet of a school; house of worship; daycare center, or another package store. The proposed amendment would change the 1500 foot rule to a mere 750 feet. That reduction in feet equates to the possible placement of a liquor store on every other block in Bridgeport!

I don’t believe, as a city resident, merchant, and retired Police Officer, that this change would benefit the City or any of its residents. It would also not be in the interest of merchants who have built their businesses on existing rules, regulations, and laws which were established for many well thought out reasons.

In the City of Bridgeport today, houses of worship and schools can be found approximately 8 blocks from one another. Daycare centers approximately every 4 blocks. Beer can be readily purchased at numerous supermarkets, bodegas, and package stores throughout Bridgeport.

This change in the rule is not a positive direction for this City to take, especially in the more densely populated and lowest income areas of Bridgeport where the opening of more liquor stores can result in increased crime and lower property values.

I am a Bridgeport resident and also own Discount Wines & Liquors Of Bridgeport, DBA “BEV-MAX” since 1997, located on Wood Avenue right at Wood Park.

I would expect that after contemplating this issue and realizing how it could negatively affect your constituents,  all Council members would be opposed to such a change and take quick action against it.

Please advise me of how you will handle it.


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24 Comments so far ↓

  • Brick

    I would agree about the issue with liquor stores near schools, but since there are hundreds of seemingly fly-by-night “churches,” I don’t think churches should have any value in determining zoning for package stores.

  • BARF

    Maybe, but many so-called “churches” are just tax exemptions, and are vacant more often than not, and more used for various reasons.

  • Donald Day

    Lennie, what in hell does this mean, “Augustynowicz, a retired Stamford police officer raised in The Bronx, New York, told OIB if the 1,500 foot rule is reduced to 750. Bridgeport will become ‘Harlem in the 1960s.’”

    • LennieGrimaldi

      DD, I was wondering if you’d weigh in on this.

    • Hector A. Diaz

      I don’t know about the ’60s but the ’70s and ’80s Harlem was the place to be for many reasons, food and entertainment first to come to mind.

    • Booty

      I believe this is what he is referring to. “In the 1960s, large numbers of residents left Harlem for neighborhoods in Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx, seeking better schools, improved housing and a stronger sense of safety. Left in Harlem were the people who couldn’t afford to or chose not to move.”

  • Ron Mackey

    I recall Bishop TD Jakes talking about his start with his first church where he had ten members in his church over 30 years ago and now he has over 30,000 and he has written best-selling books and has written plays and movies along with his TV program but hey who would have known that 30 years ago?

  • Grin Ripper

    His store is 400 feet from Curiale School!

  • Jeff Kohut

    I recall the Los Angeles riots of 1992. The community, during the riots, had taken note of the proliferation of liquor stores in the riot-rocked community during the years preceding the riots. They had noted as jobs had exited the community, liquor stores and pawn shops had undergone a simultaneous proliferation, along with violent crime and property crime. They had noted the inverse relationship between the community’s socioeconomic health and the increase in the number of pawn shops and retail liquor outlets. They felt their misfortune and misery was being exploited and abused by those seeking to sell their destructive product by way of anesthetizing the socioeconomic pain of their community.

    It should also be noted a 1998 study by the Center for Alcoholism and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, headed by former Carter Administration HEW secretary Joseph Califano, rendered statistics indicating the addressing of the effects of alcohol abuse by states consumed 10% of their budgets. In Connecticut, that amount would easily bridge our current state budget gap.

    In this regard; it would seem the last thing Connecticut/Bridgeport need is an increase in retail outlets or an expansion of the legal hours of retail sale of alcohol. But these things are what are being foisted upon the citizens of the State of Connecticut and the City of Bridgeport.

    There is no need for any further accommodation of the retail consumption of alcohol in our state and city. We have plenty of outlets and plenty of time to buy alcohol as things presently stand. The last thing we need to do as a city/state is to encourage more alcohol consumption/abuse by further saturating our poor neighborhoods with these destructive outlets for the relief of our endemic poverty.

    If the 1500-foot rule tempers our intemperance just a little, it can only be a positive for us.

    Leave the 1500-foot rule alone.

    Since this drive for a zone change was triggered by the difficulties of an obviously responsible, good citizen of Bridgeport to open a liquor store, perhaps the city can help this businessman to find a suitable, pre-existing liquor store for sale elsewhere in the city, or can help him to locate suitable space to accommodate his goals in a properly zoned area. In regard to his currently unusable investment; perhaps the city can help him to sublease his refurbished space for use in an appropriately zoned capacity so he doesn’t have to undergo undue financial hardship.

    But truly, we need to tighten ALL our zoning regulations, not relax them. We are taking a zoning code already deficient in logic and vision and making it even more chaotic and counterproductive. Is this any way to create the opportunity for socioeconomic progress in our city?!

    The money being spent to change the liquor zoning provisions in our zoning code by the businessman in question would be much better spent in finding a suitable, presently permitted location and in finding a better use for the inappropriately zoned property.

    I hope the parties involved all take the time to do some thinking before the zoning hearing comes up and that they decide to save themselves some money and stress and just take the suggested, more positive route to achieving their business goals.

  • Four Flats

    First CT law
    Under Section 30-14a of the Connecticut General Statutes, the Department may issue one (1) package store permit for every 2,500 residents of a town as determined by the most recently completed decennial census.

    This being said, Bridgeport
    Most recent census.
    Thus maximum allowed would be only
    I do not know how many we have but it could be easily found in the consumers protection website.

    This does not include bodegas that operate under a grocery store permit of at last count was over 108, several years ago.

    The change in footage then cannot increase the amount to be allowed in Bridgeport so the racist Harlem thought would be out and this would allow obviously for this one piece of political property to be utilized as a package store.
    So keep the liquor store away from the churches, daycares, schools because every bodega already sells beer if not more at those locations. Let them amend the package store competition then if they want to battle it out 750 to 750 so be it. But given the taxes and the set state law on alcohol you would only be hurting yourself to compete like that when profits are minimal.

  • Follow the Money

    Liquor pricing laws have evolved over the last 35 years.

    Package stores used to be protected under the Fair Trade Act that used to guarantee minimum mark-up margins for profit. 17% on Beer, 21% on Liquor and 33% on Wine. In the early ’80s this was changed to a minimum bottle price dictated by the State Liquor Control. How you make your extra margins are dictated by your purchasing power through monthly post-offs. When this new pricing structure was implemented you had a lot of mom and pop stores close. This is what brought about the stores per population format Four Flats described above.

    There have been several attempts by Malloy and the Distillers and Wholesale Distributors to throw out the minimum bottle price law. You could be allowed to sell a bottle below the wholesale price you bought it for. Consider this marketing technique of a loss-leader or in liquor terms a loss-liter strategy. The Big-Box Stores similar to Bev Max want this model to disrupt the market to eliminate the smaller stores. Once they controlled the market it would bring about higher prices after this market disruption. It could result in price collusion by these mega-stores.

    The 1500-foot rule was originally instituted years ago through the protectionist trade organization, the Greater Bridgeport Package Store Association.

    A free market system should allow this text amendment to proceed and put the onus on the state statute regarding permits per population.

    • Bob Walsh

      Seems like Follow the Money tracks liquor prices like most people track the stock market. He may be too vested in the price of booze to be taken seriously.
      And it would appear he thinks the distance between two stores should be as short as possible so he doesn’t get hurt stumbling from one store to the next.

      • Up On Bridgeport

        Branford has 13 packies, which is two over the limit of eleven based on population. That’s why it is the drunkest town in Connecticut!

  • John Marshall Lee

    So much of Bridgeport “political action” is about maintaining the status quo. So when change is sought it is worthwhile to consider:
    Will the move favor any group protected at the moment like churches and schools? Or property owners? Or the City from a tax point of view? Or will it assist only a handful of folks and perhaps worsen one or more problems or issues which the City or State has to ultimately deal with in Social Services?
    Isn’t the basic question here: Are there currently sufficient places for the of-age adult consumers to purchase for off-premise use beer, wine and stronger spirits? Is there any evidence there are people calling into WICC, writing the CT Post or holding meetings on the steps of City Hall to express their firm belief we need to provide the opportunity for more package stores? Time will tell.

  • Andrew C Fardy

    No John, there is not. What there is, is a politically connected malcontent and a sleazy lawyer looking to turn this city into one big liquor store. You two idiots should try to do this where you live.

  • Bob Halstead

    It seems many of the same people who are lobbying for more liquor stores are the ones who lobbied against the Medical Marijuana Dispensary at the old North End Library, that would have included a holistic healing center. No wonder more young people don’t want to settle here and GE doesn’t think it’s too cool a place either, here in Fairfield County.

    • Grin Ripper

      I heard GE wanted to move to be closer to more Bob Kraft Beer! How cool is that?

    • Hector A. Diaz

      Bob, my question to those complaints about the dispensary is it’s okay to have a pharmacy that dispenses morphine (heroin) or any number of known CONTROLLED substances, but has a problem with a pharmacist dispensing medical marijuana?

    • Bob Walsh

      Come on, Bob. This is when you prove yourself to be foolish.
      Even insinuating GE is moving because Bridgeport wouldn’t let a marijuana dispensary in the city is just stupid.

  • Bob Halstead

    At least now we have a craft brew pub, Aspetuck Brew Lab, next to the old Sand Bar.

  • Bob Walsh

    I truly think once again Bridgeport is trying to prove how politically connected you have to be to get what you want.
    Here we have the Planning and Zoning Board considering changing its regulations to appease a friend of Mario’s.
    How small-minded can we be?

  • Frank Gyure

    When I first saw this thread, I said to myself, “this is small potatoes stuff.” How wrong I was!!!

  • Bob Halstead

    Bob Walsh, you missed my point completely and you are a very nasty person. If I were ever to move out of Bridgeport it would be because of people like you.

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