ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Gary Eyster says Nob Hill residents are fed up -- particularly with inebriated people passing out in their neighborhood.
Eyster, president of the Nob Hill Neighborhood Association, said many view the 7-Eleven at Central Avenue and Solano as a "magnet" for that kind of problem. Some even tried to intervene when the store got new corporate ownership and sought approval to formally transfer the liquor license.
"We developed a statement that we opposed the transfer because the parties were not managing the alcohol sales responsibly," Eyster said.
While a hearing officer told them he lacked the authority to deny the transfer on those grounds, there is a new effort to tackle the issues surrounding the store.
City Councilor Pat Davis has proposed declaring that 7-Eleven, at 3801 Central NE, and another at 5401 Kathryn SE "public nuisance" properties. With such a designation, the city could enter into an "abatement" agreement with the ownership and take the company to court if it does not comply.
It's a dramatic step Davis said the city does not normally take against operating businesses.
But his proposals indicate that people who pass out drunk are not the only problem associated with the two convenience stores.
The Albuquerque Police Department responded to 437 calls at the Nob Hill 7-Eleven during a recent 16-month period, according to Davis' resolution. That includes a stabbing, 18 assaults, 41 incidents of shoplifting, "grab-and-runs" and forgery, and 246 other disturbances like fights. Albuquerque Fire Rescue reported to 119 fire- and medical-related calls at the property in the same time frame.
The Kathryn store had 296 police responses during the same time frame, including a shooting, two stabbings, 49 thefts or larcenies and 12 domestic disturbances.
"There's something about the way they're operating -- or not operating -- those stores that have 300-400 calls at those locations and a fraction of the same at the convenience store a half-mile away at Washington and Lomas," Davis said.
Davis has requested a city council committee hear his proposals in October but said he is willing to postpone that if the city and the stores' corporate ownership, Delek U.S., reach an informal resolution first.
It is something he said the parties have begun discussing.
The councilor said a company executive came to Albuquerque for a meeting last week and that the company has agreed to sit with the city attorney's office to review the recent calls for service and to let APD crime prevention specialists, Albuquerque Fire Rescue and the city's Environmental Health Department conduct store walk-throughs to identify potential issues.
That is happening this week, and Davis said he hopes it will result in a draft plan.
"The city is going to help, too. We want to know what the city can bring to the table and what they're going to bring to the table," he said.
Delek representatives did not respond to Journal messages on Wednesday.
Eyster said a company attorney contacted the Nob Hill Neighborhood Association earlier this summer saying it wanted the group's input as it pursued a new management plan for the store.
Eyster said he is "glad" that the company has shown a willingness to pursue solutions and also that Davis is looking into nuisance designation if necessary. He said the association is working on a list of its own ideas for change, though the 7-Eleven ownership has not circled back yet to request it.
"I will feel good after some things are done that are substantial and create a difference. ... Today I'm still very, very much wondering what's going to happen and how it's going to improve," he said.
Eyster said residents' recurring suggestions include limiting the hours the store sells alcohol and having security.
Davis said the stores' sale of miniature bottles of liquor is a contributing factor in many of the police calls, though not the only issue. He said he is waiting for this week's store walk-throughs and feedback from the city attorney before discussing any specific ideas for change.
He said he would pursue the nuisance property designation in October if the city and company never develop a mutually agreed upon plan -- or if they do but it does not work.