Olympia City Council should reject the last minute and ill-conceived request from beer and wine distributors and proceed with banning high-potency alcohol drinks in the downtown core. Eliminating public inebriation and its after-effects are central to the city’s short- and long-term downtown revitalization plans.
Continuing to allow the sale of single-serve alcohol products, which leads to all kinds of undesirable activities, such as fist-fights and public urination, would compromise the city’s ongoing initiatives to improve public perception of the historic downtown.
Responding to a general consensus for a downtown cleanup, the city has enacted several initiatives and committed millions to make the heart of the city more attractive.
These include eliminating blighted properties, creating parklets and other place-making concepts, a best management practices agreement for bars and clubs, police emphasis patrols and a coordinated anti-graffiti program. On top of all that are the multi-million dollar Washington Center renovation and East Bay developments, both of which will have long-term positive impacts.
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But public inebriation, fueled by cheap alcohol, consistently erodes public and private business investments and efforts downtown. The council was right to the document and seek to limit specific types of beverages downtown.
If the state Liquor Control Board grants the city’s request — and it should — stores could no longer sell super-strength alcoholic drinks for consumption off-premises or on city streets. Some of these products contain the equivalent of four beers in a single, inexpensive serving. That’s a recipe for all kinds of behavioral problems.
The distributors asked the council to pull back its application to the LCB in lieu of a voluntary agreement by the stores not to sell the products from 6 a.m.-1 p.m., although allowing sales of multiple high-potency drinks at any time. It’s a nonsensical proposal.
If it’s a good idea to ban the sale of single drinks during the morning hours — a baffling proposal in itself — why is it OK to sell four-packs or more throughout the day? Plus, a voluntary ban is already in place with very few stores participating.
If the distributors had a good argument to make, they should have made it last year while the city was compiling evidence pinpointing the powerful drinks as the root of its public inebriation problems.
Creation of an Alcohol Impact Area figures prominently in the city’s downtown plan. It shouldn’t be dissuaded by a last-ditch and self-serving alternative offered by the distributors.