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SB 764: Authorizes OLCC to totally kill your fun

OLCC Binge Drinking

Senate Bill 764, which has made its way through the Oregon Senate and has been referred to the House Business and Labor Committee, allows the OLCC to adopt a new rule: municipalities with over 50,000 residents can, through a petition from a representative, declare alcohol impact areas. As it stands currently, the only municipalities that can petition for an alcohol impact area are those with over 300,000 residents, of which there is only one: Portland.

In September 2010, Portland filed one such petition, which was approved in December. The alcohol impact area in that case included that licensees in portions of downtown and northwest Portland and had many stipulations regarding malt beverages and wine, including that OLCC licensees cannot sell malt beverages of over 5.75% alcohol by volume (ABV) and wine or cider over 14% ABV.

From what I understand, these impact areas are designed to cut down on public intoxication and general disorderly conduct in public places. Eugene has experimented with this before, over in the Whiteaker neighborhood: Commentator contributor Ben Maras has a great post about those over on his blog. On the Whiteaker experiment:

With the Whiteaker experiment last year, three stores were asked to participate by removing high content (8% alcohol by volume) hooch from their shelves, and one agreed to participate on its own.

After 90 days, advocates looked at crime statistics and decided that yes, correlation was as good as causation. They declared it a runaway success, comparing it to similar experiments in Washington that yielded a drop in alcohol related crime – shockingly – where people couldn’t buy their booze of choice.
The response from business owners who rely on these products for much of their revenue has been less than enthusiastic. Of the 43 businesses the OLCC spent months courting to voluntarily join the “alcohol impact zone” only nine were game. This was in part because of the amount of their reported sales that malt liquor and bum wine comprise (30%, according to some), and part in fear that if they complied and other businesses didn’t, they would lose business. The OLCC’s response: Force everyone to comply.

The forward movement of the bill likely has to do with the success of the experiment, which, if passed, would definitely impact Eugene and its 156,185 residents.

The question then comes to, as it often does on the Commentator blog, at what point are we sacrificing our personal choice for a “greater goal” (perceived safety, in this case)? One of the OLCC’s stated goals is to prevent over-saturation in the state by regulating the 143 liquor stores in Oregon (yes, all of them are state-run) and owning/distributing every drop of liquor in the state. But when do post-prohibition policies run their course? When do we trust Americans to make their own decisions?

Depending on the passage of this bill, only time will tell. For now, I’m going to buy a 40 of Mickey’s and enjoy it while I still can.

(P.S. Serious hat tip to the Oregonian for Your Government, which allows Oregonians to keep track of their representatives and the pieces of legislation they sponsor.)

  1. George says:

    This is an issue I can completely agree with you all on. The way I see this is, if you have an alcohol addition and little money of course you are going to look for the cheapest option with the most alcohol content.

    If that option is not available, you have a few options. You can 1.) find ways to get more money to buy enough alcohol to get you to where you want to be (most of which involve more crime), 2.) Travel outside the “alcohol impact area” to get the desired product, or 3.) Not drink. Personally, I think the latter is just not practical. If you are an alcoholic you just don’t stop drinking because the store didn’t have your preferred option. Thus, options 1 and 2 are more likely to create more problems then if you just sold the high-percent alcohol in the first place.

    Also FYI- just because people go to a different neighborhood to buy their alcohol, and alcohol-related-crimes occur in those places rather then in the “alcohol impact area” does not mean you solved the problem.

    This “solution” is unpractical to say the least. Furthermore, when are people going to realize that prohibition does NOT work!

  2. C.W. Keating says:

    Think about this though: if we have Prohibition again, alcohol will be even more dangerous and sexy. THINK ABOUT IT! We can do stuff like whisper secret codes through telephone booths and run bootlegging operations out of our trucks. It’ll be a huge hootenanny!

    But seriously, stop it Oregon.

  3. Betz says:

    I’d like to petition to create a new alcohol impact area, circumscribing my house …

    Its an interesting question – I would like to say that this is almost a nanny-state law (except I don’t want over-zealous political correctness goons to point out my phrase is wrong!). However, many nanny-state laws are not backed up with statistical (which is pseudo-empirical) data to support them.

    While I think its important to take each of these case by case, I actually would support this. If the goal of the law is to cut down on alcohol-related crime and public drunkeness, then it makes sense to cut the supply of cheap booze (since I doubt it would be possible to cut the demand for cheap booze). I think safety and security is more important than my ability to get sloshed for less than $5.

    Opinions aside, this brings up a funny question: I’m planning a bach. party in a couple weeks, and someone requested I locate a case of Night Train – a legit bum wine. Anyone know where I can find this shit in Portland?

  4. nike negativism duk says:

    In other buzzkill related news Google these titles to read about the latest sportporkers development soap opera “lananna stifle discussion of indoor track” and “reasons for lanannas reluctance”……..the second item is from Oregonian

  5. Jacob says:

    As one who had a great share of Mickey’s grenades in my day, I’m not sure “enjoy” and “Mickey’s” belong in the same sentence.

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