Liquor store zoning no answer to abuse

April 21, 2013

The Sun's recent article on the use of zoning laws to limit liquor stores highlights a complex issue ("Zoning should be used to limit liquor stores, Hopkins study says," April 12). We support a community's right to decide for themselves what type of businesses and services are located in their neighborhoods, and we believe that alcohol licensing regulations should be enforced to deal with those who are not in compliance with the law. These are local issues that should be discussed and decided by all members of the community, including local hospitality businesses.

However, the sweeping broad-brush approach advocated by David Jernigan in his "Action Guide on Regulating Alcohol Outlet Density" is not a panacea to reducing alcohol abuse, is not supported by the evidence and oversimplifies the issue.

It is simplistic and misleading to think that arbitrarily reducing the number of alcohol outlets will decrease alcohol abuse. The determinants of alcohol-related harms are varied. There are many social economic, demographic, cultural and biological factors that must be considered. This is the case in states throughout the country.

Many cities, including Baltimore, choose to concentrate their alcohol outlets to create thriving, social entertainment areas that attract tourists and boost local hospitality businesses. Beverage licensees are frequently the first business owners in areas like the Inner Harbor, where neighborhood revitalization is carefully planned to include entertainment, restaurants, transportation and public safety. By suggesting that a package liquor store or tavern cannot successfully coexist on the same block with a residential building is to overlook the hundreds of successful mixed-use developments in urban areas throughout the country.

There are also cities nationwide where the local community leaders, local law enforcement and local hospitality businesses have worked together to reduce abuse in their surroundings without resorting to a one-size-fits-all approach of reducing the number of outlets across the board.

The goal should be to reduce alcohol abuse not drive the problem somewhere else. Indiscriminately shutting down law-abiding businesses that are a part of the local economy is not the way to solve problems associated with alcohol abuse.

John Bodnovich, Bethesda

The writer is executive director of American Beverage Licensees.

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