Baltimore Leading the Way: Study Supports Zoning Effort to Regulate Alcohol Density

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has released a study detailing the benefits of regulating alcohol density within a community.  The report, released from the school’s Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, is titled, “Regulating Density of Alcohol Outlets A Promising Strategy to Improve Public Health.

The report notes that a review of 88 studies have strongly suggested a positive correlation between alcohol outlet density and excessive alcohol consumption: more alcohol outlets in a given area suggests more alcohol-related problems.  For example, a study in Los Angeles discovered that 3.4 additional acts of violence occurred with each additional alcohol outlet.  Meanwhile, in New Orleans, a study suggested the homicide rate would increase should off-premise alcohol outlet density increase.

While greater alcohol outlet density raises public health and safety concerns, reducing outlet density can result in less hospitalizations resulting from alcohol and can result other positive health outcomes.  For instance, a decrease in outlets in Sweden greatly decreased the number of hospitalizations for intoxication, suicide, and motor vehicle crashes.

The report notes that regulatory authorities are an effective way to reduce alcohol outlet density.

Limiting the number of outlets based on population could be used to reduce outlet density.  While Baltimore has such a standard set by the Liquor License Board,  there are still more than twice the number of outlets there should be based on that standard. This isn’t that surprising given the recent liquor board audit, which  revealed a number of problems and inefficiencies in the organization.

However zoning laws, the report suggests, can also be an effective regulatory tool. Unlike liquor boards which regulate liquor licenses, zoning regulates how private land may or may not be used.   Baltimore may soon set an example for the nation with Transform Baltimore if it passes provisions to the zoning code which would restrict roughly 105 alcohol outlets operating in residential areas from selling alcohol.  The provisions would also limit new liquor licenses from moving to within 300 feet of existing licenses and ask taverns to start acting like taverns. The provisions have been approved by the Baltimore Planning Commission  but must still be approved by the City Council.  If you support this agenda and wish to stay engaged, join CPHA’s coalition to reduce alcohol outlet density.   Additionally, listen to Mel, Executive Director of CPHA, discuss the issue on the radio. To get engaged around this issue and other city policies relevant to community health, attend the free CPHA AYIC: Healthy Communities event.  You can register online here.

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Faith Tandoc

Faith Tandoc

This article was written by Faith Tandoc and edited by Michael Snidal. Click here to meet our writing team.
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