Fueled by liquid nostalgia
The neon sign that reads “Jerry’s Drive-In Liquors” illuminates the sidewalk bordering ASU campus. As customers enter they are greeted by a dog nearly half their size who wags his tail with excitement. He greets customers regardless if they are regulars or first-timers.
The manager, Mike Amirah, stands behind the counter wearing a light blue jacket, hood pulled over his head. He greets each customer with a soft smile, since most of them are returning customers and are on a first name basis with Amirah.
Occasionally, Amirah will leave his post behind the counter and offer his assistance through the drive-thru window just as the original owner, Jerry, did in the 1950’s.
“It was a liquor store back then, it’s a liquor store now,” Amirah says. “The drive-thru concept was with the original owner back then and we just kept it that way.”
Although time has passed since the opening of Jerry’s Drive-In Liquors, the laws regulating the drive-thru addition to liquor stores have allowed the concept to remain legal. According to the Arizona Department of Liquor, any liquor store can have a drive-thru section as long as the director of the Arizona Department of Liquor approves the floor plans.
“There are state guidelines or requirements for liquor stores and a local governing body, like Tempe would have more restrictive guidelines for their liquor stores,” Communications and Special Projects Director Lee Hill says.
A change in floor plan is considered any change in the footprint of the physical layout of a liquor store, such as removing a wall, moving a counter space or adding a drive-thru window.
“More importantly if you do have a drive-thru window it’s important for us to, A) know you do and B) where its location is,” says Hill.
The Arizona Department of Liquor plays an active role in ensuring the overall safety of those operating liquor stores and those purchasing from liquor stores. The department views themselves as a regulatory agency that is split into two parts.
The first portion of the department involves the licensing division, which “accepts applications and issues liquor licenses to qualified people.” The second portion of the department involves the investigation department.
“The investigation division is a group of sworn officers that actually go to liquor license businesses and make sure that they are in compliance primarily to not serve underage and to not over serve patrons and to make sure there are no acts of violence on the premises,” Hill says.
Since Jerry’s Drive-In Liquors’ location is within close proximity to a major college campus, the risk of issues involving fake ID’s or underage drinking can be more prominent.
“Obviously any liquor store or grocery store that carries liquor is going to have problems with ID’s,” Amirah says. “We probably get a little bit more.”
When asked what steps Jerry’s Drive-In Liquors takes to ensure the safety of customers, Amirah reassures that the store actively works with the Arizona Department of Liquor to ensure these issues stay under control.
“We actually take the [fake] ID’s,” says Amirah. “We turn them in to the liquor board that comes. They’re here, at least our store since we’re so close to ASU, every weekend. They check in, check other people’s ID’s when they’re purchasing and stuff like that.”
Jerry’s Drive-In Liquors chose to maintain the rustic exterior as a landmark for those who used to visit it when the store first opened.
“This is a landmark for the older generation so whenever they’re in town they like to stop in and visit their old Jerry’s that they shopped at 20, 30 years ago,” Amirah says.
Although ASU is within such close proximity, Jerry’s Drive-In Liquors’ customer base not does rely solely on students. Additionally, the customers that are ASU students very rarely use the drive-thru window, Amirah says.
“Since we’re around ASU, it’s more walk-up because not a lot of students have cars,” says Amirah. “I’d say about 70 percent walk in and 30 percent drive through.”
Some ASU students are put off by Jerry’s Drive-In Liquor’s appearance and overall concept. Chemical engineering junior Raph Pascua agrees with this opinion.
“Overall the appearance of it doesn’t look like it should be next to a college campus,” says Pascua. “It doesn’t look like a place I’d buy alcohol from.”
To students who have grown up in an era when drive-thru liquor stores are no longer popular, the concept appears outdated and even dangerous.
“I guess you could associate it with drink and driving,” Pascua says. “I’ve seen people pull out of that and they’ve already opened up a can of beer and are drinking.”
Although there are risks to any liquor store, including a liquor store with a drive-thru window, Amirah is confident that Jerry’s Drive-In Liquors properly works towards maintaining a safe environment for all customers.
“I don’t think it serves any problems,” Amirah says. “I think if someone is going to do wrong whether they want to do wrong or not, just because it’s a drive-through doesn’t mean necessarily you’re going to have more problems.”
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