Winos in Westminster

February 18, 1994

Even though the successive weeks of frigid temperatures, snow and ice have driven most of the alcoholic "street people" off Westminster's Main Street, city officials worry the winos will return to their old haunts once the weather warms up.

To keep them away, Westminster's Mayor W. Benjamin Brown has suggested that Schmitt's Rexall Drugs voluntarily relinquish its liquor license. City Council members thought this suggestion unfairly singled out one retailer and recommended that a letter be sent to all city liquor stores asking them to stop selling fortified wine and booze in miniature bottles.

Will curtailing the wine and small bottles drive away these homeless men and improve the conditions on Main Street? Probably not. Most alcoholics will drink anything containing alcohol. Curtailing the sale of certain products isn't going to work. Neither will putting liquor stores out of business. Even if the liquor sellers on Main Street closed down, there would be other places in Westminster to buy liquor. These men may not have cars, but they certainly will walk to find whatever drink is available in the city.

And where will they drink it? Probably in the same places on Main Street they have always used. They congregate near the Locust Lane alley because it is one of the more pleasant places on Main Street and provides all the amenities they seek. Trees shade the entire area. There are benches and low walls to sit on. Across the street is the library, providing shelter from the rain and cold.

In the end, removing the nearby supply of booze may prove to be a minor inconvenience at best. To really drive the winos away, if indeed that is the city's goal, all the benches would have to removed, the trees cut down and access to the library restricted. Following this strategy would be akin to the failed tactic in the Vietnam war that called for the destruction of villages in order to save them.

As long as these men verbally harass women or disturb others, they should not feel welcome. But any restrictive measures should be directed at them and not at the rest of Westminster's residents and visitors.

If Schmitt's obeys the liquor laws, which all evidence indicates it does, then its owners should have the freedom to sell whatever products in whatever sizes they choose.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.