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Should convenience stores be allowed to sell hard liquor?

BY DI EDITORIAL STAFF | APRIL 05, 2011 7:20 AM

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YES

Apparently, Iowa City is worried about making it remotely easy for people to purchase liquor.
Iowa City Mayor Matt Hayek expressed concerns last week about a new law that allows convenience stores to sell liquor in the main section of the store, without a separate entrance. “I don’t think this is a good thing for Iowa City,” Hayek told The Daily Iowan.

I could fully understand hesitation if this bill was going to open up a new venue for the sale of alcohol of all varieties. But convenience stores already had the ability to sell beer and liquor (this latter if it is separated from the other booze), so why not make it easier on everyone and include hard liquor on the main shelves as well?

“I have a feeling that there would be more customers [at convenience stores]. It is more convenient for people who live nearby,” Rhenn Atwell, a cashier at a Deli Mart in Coralville, told the DI last week.

That’s the point. Convenience stores were made for a reason — they’re convenient. That doesn’t mean all patrons will turn to them as their one and only source for alcohol. But if they’re allowed to sell one form of alcohol, opening up the playing field to include all kinds (without requiring major reconfiguration) isn’t really changing much.

Sure, it’s worth considering that hard alcohol has the ability to get someone more intoxicated in a shorter time. But, in the end, both forms of alcohol have the same effects and are typically taken to produce the same outcomes.

Furthermore, many are hesitant because this could open a new avenue of availability to minors, but this one’s really quite simple: Hire some trustworthy employees (employers should always have some faith in who they are hiring). At the very least, have someone higher up monitoring them, preventing minors from obtaining alcohol. It should be no different from the way businesses ran before this new law.

So as much as I’d like to say I understand the concern on this one, I’m just not so sure I do. This new law has the potential to not only make the lives of citizens in Iowa City more convenient but also improve profits for local stores. As long as it is monitored correctly, and by the right people, it shouldn’t have much of a negative effect.

— Taylor Casey

NO

While you’re refueling and grabbing a bag of chips to accompany your bucket of soda, should you be able to stock up on vodka or rum as well?

Now that Gov. Terry Branstad has signed HF 617, Iowa convenience stores will soon be able to sell hard liquor without an extra entrance or cash register. While I’m a fan of all three — and apparently, so is the state Senate, which voted 33-14 in favor of the legislation, is, too — the hangover effects of this bill will only serve to worsen the situation in Iowa City.

According to estimates by the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division, “over the next two years, 200 additional convenience stores will obtain liquor licenses.”

Increased revenue for the state: good. But pouring more spirits into the Iowa City cocktail doesn’t go down so easily.

Making liquor more accessible practically negates everything our soon-to-be “Coordinator of Campus-Community Harm Reduction Initiatives” will work toward. Additionally, providing harder booze at the same store that provides gasoline certainly tempts the drunk-driving fates. While these may seem like mere trivialities — anyone who drives to a liquor store faces the same “quandaries” — the bill’s main provisions pose a more severe threat to alcohol restrictions.

Convenience stores would not be forced to cordon off hard liquor, either through a special entrance or otherwise, or ring up sales on a separate cash register — making it more visible to shoppers and starry-eyed minors.

“Reducing the commercial availability of alcohol to underage youth may help to reduce underage drinking and alcohol-related problems, especially if an initiative of this nature is conducted as part of a comprehensive prevention strategy,” found a 2007 study by Mallie J. Paschall et alia. Sound familiar? It also noted that sales to underage patrons were more likely to be present in grocery and convenience stores.

While this new law may aid convenience in more rural parts of the state, it does not bode well for booze-plagued Iowa City.

— Kirsten Jacobsen


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