End Baltimore's glut of non-conforming liquor stores

March 30, 2013

Next week, the Baltimore City Council will consider the changes to the zoning code that will affect about 100 of the city's 1,300 existing liquor outlets. These outlets have been non-conforming for more than 40 years, and it's time for them to be closed.

During the Planning Commission's hearings, two students from Patterson High School testified on why the number of liquor outlets needs to be reduced. One of the commissioners said their testimony moved him more than any of the others. Inspired by these young ladies, we solicited the opinions of several more teens. Some of their comments:

"In my neighborhood, there are [many] liquor stores and taverns. There is a lot of trash that drunken people throw. People also sell drugs outside the liquor outlets and it spills into the neighborhoods."

"There are a high number of young adults around the ages of 15, 16 and 17 that are being sold alcohol. It is easy to purchase or at least have someone hanging around the outside of the liquor stores buy it for us. We have more liquor stores and taverns than we have recreation centers."

"There are multiple liquor outlets in the 21218 zip code and all of them are in the wrong spots. They sell tobacco products and liquor and [these] are sold to students from my school without asking for ID. They bring negative activity into our neighborhoods such as loitering, drug dealing and drug abuse, theft and other violence."

While we hope that the City Council will assist the owners of these non-conforming stores in finding other ways to make a living, we urge members to approve the Planning Commission's proposal to begin reducing the number of liquor outlets as soon as possible for the health, safety and cleanliness of Baltimore.

Helene Luce, Baltimore

The writer is senior director for educational programs and opportunities at Community Law In Action Inc.

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