A little while back, Mayor Bloomberg’s crew in New York City floated a trial balloon about restricting liquor sales, pursuant to the now-familiar “public health” rationale. After meeting with instant public outrage in that entertainment-intensive city, the idea was quickly scrapped. Perhaps it is sheer coincidence that scholars at the mayorally endowed Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University are now helping to promote proposed measures in Baltimore cracking down on liquor stores, which Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has now endorsed. One initiative would close approximately 100 of the city’s liquor stores; another would ban stores with a substantial liquor business (20 percent or more of sales) from selling any item to minors, such as milk or batteries. Among stores targeted by the city for uncompensated closure is one that was voted “Best Wine Store” by City Paper readers a few years ago: “Health and planning officials are targeting stores that they say are in mostly poor neighborhoods and are a public health nuisance because they have been linked to violent crimes. … But at least four of the five stores in north Baltimore are longtime businesses, whose owners say they are in relatively crime-free communities and get along with their residential neighbors,” notes the Sun. More advocacy for the bans here (columnist Dan Rodricks suggests owners transform some of the shuttered stores into “bakeries or small restaurants”) and here (“Park Heights Renaissance” group).
Maryland blogger Tom Coale (HoCoRising) responds:
As I’ve said many times before, these laws that appear facially valid and high-minded almost always end up with unintended consequences. In this case, I can certainly foresee a 15 year old being prohibited from buying his family food while his two parents are at work, and having no where else to make this small part of their family unit work. There are some exemptions to address this, but I can’t see this Council considering every circumstance across Baltimore. If you don’t want kids at liquor stores, work on building the business community and rehabilitating neighborhoods.