By Kari Bray Herald Writer
EVERETT — Certain beers and malt liquors are to be pulled from the coolers in stores downtown and in several other neighborhoods after an Everett City Council decision Wednesday evening.
The City Council voted unanimously in favor of the rule change. Mayor Ray Stephanson and Councilmen Ron Gipson and Jeff Moore were not at the meeting.
In April, the city created an “alcohol impact area” for its core commercial neighborhoods in hopes of reducing problems associated with people consuming cheap, strong alcoholic beverages.
That includes littering, trespassing, criminal mischief and theft, according to the city.
Compliance with the alcohol impact area was voluntary, meaning officials asked store owners within the boundaries to stop selling certain types of beer and malt liquor.
The list of restricted products is focused on beverages that typically cost as much as or less than a can of beer but pack more of a punch in terms of alcohol per volume. City officials determined that 20 items on the list such as Mike’s Hard Lemonade, Steel Reserve and Four Loco are “commonly consumed by chronic public inebriants,” according to council documents.
Eight months on, the voluntary approach isn’t working, police say. Of 101 businesses in the alcohol impact area, about 15 stopped selling the drinks, 14 never sold them and more than 70 decided to keep selling them, according to police, who revisited the businesses in September to see which were still selling the products.
Meanwhile, the Everett Fire Department responded to 1,031 alcohol related calls between April 1 and Oct. 31, after the voluntary ban had been established.
That’s a 10 percent decrease from the same period last year, before the impact area, according to the city. Litter and public drunkenness continue to be issues.
State law allows for alcohol sales bans if they target a specific geographic area and a limited list of products. Everett’s impact area includes the downtown core and a few smaller pockets near Paine Field and Cascade High School, along Broadway north of 41st Street and along Evergreen Way.
The ordinance approved Wednesday by the City Council directs the police chief to ask that the state Liquor and Cannabis Board make the ban mandatory. It is being moved on to the mayor for a final signature and will take affect 15 days after it’s signed. The restriction applies to off-premises sales only, so restaurants or bars can serve the beverages, but stores can’t sell cans or bottles for customers to walk out with.
Councilman Paul Roberts asked police to give an update at least once a year on how the ban is working and whether the impact area actually sees a reduction in alcohol-related crimes.
“I don’t think anyone here is under the delusion that this will fix a bunch of problems,” he said. “It will help.”
The ban in some neighborhoods could push problems into others, councilwoman Brenda Stonecipher said. She’d like to see an annual report looking both inside and outside of the ban’s boundaries to see if the problems get solved or simply shifted.
“I’m a little bit suspicious of this and skeptical that it’s going to work,” she said.
Store owners have mixed feelings about the alcohol sales ban.
Khan Hamoon helps his uncle run the Food Mart attached to the 76 gas station at the corner of Rucker and Pacific avenues. Coffee, beer and soft drinks are some of the most frequently purchased items at the convenience store.
Hamoon isn’t too worried about the ban hurting business. The most popular beers at the Food Mart aren’t on the list to be removed from coolers. For example, Bud Ice is on the restricted products list, but people seeking that brand of beer tend to opt for a Budweiser or Bud Light anyway, he said.
“Ice” beers like Bud Ice, Busch Ice, Keystone Ice and Pabst Ice generally are processed to have a higher alcohol content than their non-Ice or light counterparts, so the Ices fall under the ban’s restrictions while the others don’t.
Homelessness seems to be a problem around the Food Mart, Hamoon said, and sometimes people come in to buy cheap, strong alcohol when they probably should be focused on taking care of themselves. That includes customers who are in their early 20s and don’t seem to realize how damaging heavy drinking can be, he said.
“But it’s not just health, it’s independence and freedom,” Hamoon said. “So guys come in here wanting something. We’re not in a position to stop them.”
At Star Mini Mart on Hewitt Avenue, Mike’s Hard Lemonades were sold out Tuesday afternoon. They’re popular items in the beer and wine section. Hurricane Ice, Icehouse, and Steel Reserve 211, both the black and silver labels, also rank among the most commonly bought beers and malt liquors there. All are on the list of products to be banned in the alcohol impact area.
The owners of the mini mart worry that pulling those items from the coolers could hurt their business but said they’ll have to adjust to the city’s new rules.
Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; email@example.com.