Specialized Alcohol Retail Stores are the Best Option for Public Health and Safety


Franklin Liquors


This is an article we read and wanted to repost.

Interesting View On Alcohol Sales

Thanks To:

 Pamela S. Erickson

Campaign for a Healthy Alcohol Marketplace


Specialized Alcohol Retail Stores are the Best Option for Public Health and Safety
by Pamela S. Erickson
The expansion of alcohol access is creating increased problems for our communities. More stores are seeking and getting the privilege of selling alcohol without adequate controls. Drugstores such as Walgreens have added alcohol products to their stores. For Indiana alone that meant over 160 new outlets. Deep discount “dollar stores” are seeking liquor licenses as are convenience stores. Supermarkets are using their legal and political dollars to change regulations so they can sell all types of alcohol at any time their store is open. The vote for privatization in Washington State more than tripled the number of hard liquor outlets. Almost immediately, liquor thefts increased. Although many new licensees are responsible operators, research has shown that increased outlets can bring increases in underage drinking, public intoxication, crime, and public nuisances. These situations also increase the burden on local law enforcement. Here are some specific problems:

  1. Staffing levels are often too low to deter thefts of alcohol or to adequately prevent sales to minors and intoxicated persons.
  2. Teens who have committed alcohol theft say they know which locations are understaffed or overburdened with duties and target those places.
  3. Additional alcohol outlets often increase calls for local police service. One study found that the average cost of one additional call for police service is $125. The same study found that some convenience stores averaged over one call per day a year. The unchecked expansion of alcohol outlets is threatening to overwhelm local law enforcement.
  4. The trend in hiring fewer staff is continuing. According to Convenience Store News, the average number of associates per store decreased by one between 2010 and 2011.
  5. The grocery business is extremely marginal and the average profit level was less than 1% in 2011 according to the Food Marketing Institute. As a result, grocery retailers use alcohol frequently as a way to increase desperately needed profits.

Everyone should be concerned about selling alcohol in more places without the controls that exist in specialty stores. Whether these stores are privately licensed or in public ownership, the controls are critical. Specialty stores usually prohibit minors from entering. Their clerks become skilled at checking ID, spotting fake ID and identifying the signs of intoxication. These stores usually cannot afford to offer deep discounts on alcohol that are attractive to youth and problem drinkers. In contrast, supermarkets that average over 38,000 other products can drastically drop prices on a few items and make up the profit on these other items. Specialty stores make almost all their income from alcohol sales. Therefore, they are more likely to take compliance seriously because they risk losing their whole business, not just sales from one of many products.

All states should review their alcohol retail laws to ensure they have adequate controls such as:

  • Limits on outlet density
  • Limits on days and hours of sales
  • Restrictions on promotions and marketing that impact youth or foster high volume consumption
  • Ensure enforcement is adequate
  • Consider the roles of staffing levels and self-service in determining if the outlet is safe enough to sell alcohol.

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