Fairbanks councilman proposes citywide ban on open alcohol container

Posted: Sunday, December 31, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- City officials have tried to deal with public drunkenness for decades, with mixed results.

Through city and borough efforts, the number of bars and liquor stores downtown has been reduced and the hours of operation limited. The city also banned open containers of alcohol in the downtown area to stop drinking in public.

Now one city councilman wants to extend that ban to the rest of the city.

A proposed ordinance by Councilman Bob Boko would make it illegal to carry, transport or possess an open container of alcohol on all public streets, sidewalks, alleys, parks or other public places. It would exclude containers properly secured in vehicles.

Violators would face a fine of up to $100.

Police Chief James Welch welcomes the expanded boundaries.

''I think the community government and law enforcement need to have as many tools in hand to deal with the issue,'' he said. ''This would strengthen what we have on the books.''

Welch said the department responds to 1,200 to 1,500 calls annually of people incapacitated by alcohol, and that 80 percent to 90 percent of overall calls have some connection to alcohol or drug use.

While it is not illegal to be drunk in public, Welch said it is illegal to serve alcohol to an inebriated person or allow that individual to stay on the premises.

''There has been a lot of improvement not only in the core area but the entire community,'' he said. ''I don't know if we will ever see the problem entirely gone from the community.''

Welch said the ordinance would send a message to all residents that it is inappropriate to consume alcohol on sidewalks and city streets and reflects an attitude change by the community.

''It is a community issue and not just a downtown core issue,'' he said. ''And (it) is one that we have to work together on.''

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