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Booze control gets stricter in downtown Las Vegas

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    FILE - In this Jan. 13, 2011 file photo, street performers and proselytizers compete for attention from visitors at the Fremont Street Experience in downtown Las Vegas. On Thursday, June 5, 2014, Las Vegas officials said they would step up the police presence near the area to curtail aggressive panhandling. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, file)

LAS VEGAS » Las Vegas officials are banning people from drinking out of aluminum cans and glass bottles at the Fremont Street Experience, saying they want to cut down on the rowdy revelry that has led to fights and even a shooting that wounded two people last summer.

An ordinance passed Wednesday by the City Council aims to discourage people from getting drunk on cheap liquor from the souvenir stores along the pedestrian mall, and push them to buy more expensive drinks poured into cups at casinos and restaurants flanking the attraction.

The measure, which takes effect Sunday and carries fines up to $500, is an expansion of an existing, difficult-to-enforce rule that banned drinking packaged liquor within 1,000 feet of the store where it was purchased.

"This makes it a lot simpler," City Attorney Brad Jerbic said. "No one will have to guess if it’s 1,000 feet or 99 feet."

But the souvenir stores are fighting back, saying the tightening rules are a violation of their rights. Attorney Bob Gronauer, representing the ABC souvenir store, said the measure would hurt his clients’ bottom line and lead to further regulations.

"This is essentially death by a thousand cuts," he said, according to KTNV-TV. "The city is taking one slice at a time."

The Fremont Street Experience, which is bordered by some of the city’s oldest casinos, is covered by a giant video canopy that features periodic light shows. Bands play free rock concerts on a stage sandwiched between casinos, and street performers and costumed characters flock to the corridor in hopes of hustling tips from the crowds.

But city officials fear that the abundant alcohol, the panhandling and the aggressive tactics of some of the performers are beginning to turn people away.

"We’ve heard from our visitors and residents loud and clear that they have concern about what they’re finding as they visit," Mayor Carolyn Goodman said at a news conference earlier this month. "Some of these individuals are nearly nude, and others are very aggressive."

Goodman and Sheriff Doug Gillespie recently announced plans to ramp up the number of police officers on patrol, and enforce a rule that keeps performers from touching visitors and vice versa.

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