The Council will hold a hearing on Wednesday, September 15 at 6 p.m. in Council chambers to take public testimony on a proposed Alcohol Impact Area, where sales of certain types of malt beverages and wines would be restricted. The proposal is in response to street drinking and calls for police and detox service related to it. The Council action is to consider whether to request the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) to enact the Alcohol Impact Area (AIA) and associated rules. The OLCC, not the City Council, makes the final decision. The OLCC's one page information sheet about the AIA process is here (one page pdf).
The area downtown proposed for the AIA has 1% of the land area in Portland but 58% of the reports of street drinking and calls for service for police/medical services related to intoxication. Note, drinking alcohol outside in unregulated areas (i.e., not in sidewalk restaurants or in permitted street-closure areas) is illegal, public intoxication is not - unless it progresses to disorderly conduct or other such behaviors. Our laws in this regard regulate the actions, rather than the state of being.
My intent in proposing to ask OLCC to enact an Alcohol Impact Area is to reduce the public safety impacts of street drinking in downtown Portland. Fewer calls for police service for intoxication would mean more time for police to attend to other problems, and result in fewer interactions between public safety staff and citizens that could end in undesired outcomes. Further, alcohol use and addiction is not helpful in solving the real problems of people living outside, and can impair both their own and service providers' ability to address the root causes.
Reducing the availabilty of specific types of alcohol within a defined boundary, based on the data, has been found to significantly reduce the public health and safety problems associated with street drinking. There are several successful Alcohol Impact Areas in Washington. Experience in Washington has informed our proposal. For example, there the AIAs were found to have minimal effect on surrounding neighborhoods not in the AIA. If displacement happens here, we will address problems as they arise - with lower concentration of stores selling the targeted products in other areas, it's easier to solve issues with voluntary approaches working with individual retailers. We tried a voluntary approach for downtown, but too few outlets participated to make the program work.
The Office of Neighborhood Involvement's data and background information is on their web site here. A summary (Word document with map) with responses to Frequently Asked Questions, which I sent to my colleagues on the Council this weekend, is here.
Please send comments to all members of Council - our email addresses are here. Note, the Council's action on Wednesday will be to decide whether to ask OLCC for an Alcohol Impact Area. OLCC makes the final decision, not Council, and changes to the proposal can be made at the hearings before OLCC. Thank you for participating in the public review and discussion regarding this issue.
Update 9/17/10: The Council voted 4-0, with Commissioner Saltzman on vacation, to move the petition to OLCC. In response to testimony at the hearing which was supported by the data collected, we removed the restriction on bottled wine over 14% alcohol content, except for fortified wines excluding named types of dessert wines such as port, sherry, madeira, etc.