City must fix its liquor store glut [Letter]

January 20, 2014

Regarding your recent story on the debate over the future of the city's liquor stores under the proposed new zoning code ("Key councilman says city shouldn't zone longtime liquor stores out of business," Jan. 13), I would like to clarify that I believe the current proposal requiring stores in primarily residential neighborhoods to stop selling liquor in those neighborhoods and stores with "tavern" licenses to actually function as taverns rather than as seven-day-a-week liquor stores is reasonable and in line with what cities have done for generations in terms of using planning and zoning to help control placement of, and consequences associated with, alcohol outlets.

This proposal represents a huge opportunity for Baltimore to reduce violence and crime, sexually-transmitted diseases, injuries, property damage and underage drinking, all of which have been linked to high concentrations of alcohol outlets such as Baltimore has now.

As our homicide death toll climbs daily, it is clear that the status quo is unacceptable. Simply looking to existing licensing and enforcement resources to fix this problem has not worked in the 40 years since the last zoning code rewrite, and there is no reason it will do better in future years.

Public hearings on this proposal have been filled with citizens young and old talking about the need to address the glut of liquor stores. Across the city, communities are asking for the right to a greater say in their alcohol environments, and the Baltimore City Council should give it to them.

David Jernigan, Baltimore

The writer is an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School Of Public Health.

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