Sales of fortified beer and wine could soon be forbidden in a large swath of Tacoma’s North and West ends.
Area residents say the inexpensive high-alcohol products fuel public drunkenness and vagrancy. More than a year ago, the city asked 39 area stores, mostly of the smaller “mom and pop” variety, to voluntarily stop selling the products to curb the problem. But fewer than half of the stores complied, Tacoma police Lieutenant Mark Feddersen said.
Several distributors told police they wouldn’t volunteer to remove the items from their shelves unless their competitors did the same.
Now the City Council is considering asking the state Liquor Control Board for a mandatory ban, called an Alcohol Impact Area, in parts of Tacoma’s North and West ends. It would be the third such AIA in Tacoma if the Liquor Control Board approves it.
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The council heard from residents about the ban Tuesday, which would remove more than 40 products from the shelves. Such products include Mike’s Harder Lemonade, Earthquake High Gravity Lager and Steel Reserve.
Residents have long complained about public drunkenness in the neighborhood, including people who drink so much they pass out and sleep it off on their lawns.
“We are seeing more and more people out on the street,” resident Ginny Eberhardt told the council Tuesday. “Twelfth Street is a veritable who’s who of the drinkers in the city of Tacoma.”
But chronic public inebriation is not the fault of the sellers, said Scott Hazlegrove, executive director of the Washington Beer and Wine Distributors Association.
“Alcoholism is a disease, and it will not be ended or treated by the banning of a limited number of products,” he told the council.
If the council approves the plan next week, it would allow the police chief to ask the Liquor Control Board for a permanent Alcohol Impact Area.