Not the buzz Everett wants in its downtown

Downtown Everett’s revival keeps picking up steam. The Events Center, along with the now-established remakes of Hewitt and Colby avenues, are drawing new life to the urban core, particularly at night. Exciting new restaurants and other businesses are taking root, and new housing units are bringing in more residents who care about their downtown neighborhood.

A necessary casualty of this revitalization is public drunkenness. The days of street alcoholics freely guzzling fortified beer and wine, then using the streets as their stumbling ground and a place to sleep it off, must end.

We applaud the city’s effort to curtail the sale of high-octane beer and wine, and encourage it to be aggressive. Downtown shopkeepers, who clearly have a stake in maintaining an attractive, inviting area, should voluntarily take the stuff off the shelves. If they don’t, the city should follow the lead of Seattle and Tacoma, which asked the state Liquor Control Board to ban the sale of cheap, strong hooch in designated “alcohol impact areas.”

We’re not talking about your basic six-pack of low-priced suds or a bottle from an economy vintner. This stuff is made to deliver a quick, cheap stupor. The wine contains up to 18 percent alcohol, about 50 percent more than most wines. The beer (or malt liquor) packs a similarly powerful punch and often comes in 24-ounce cans or quart bottles.

Its presence in high-density areas creates more panhandling and litter – the empties rarely find their way into a garbage can. And many street drunks are all too happy to use alleys, sidewalks or even private yards as a bathroom.

Let’s be clear: This is not a campaign to target low-income residents and force them out of downtown. It’s a mix of people that makes a downtown vibrant – different ages, cultural backgrounds and income levels. This is an effort to make downtown more welcoming and livable for everyone.

Let’s also be realistic: It won’t eliminate street alcoholics. The hope is it will encourage many of them to leave town and moderate the behavior of those who stay. It remains important for the community to seek and support programs that offer these people a chance to overcome their addiction.

But it’s also important for the city to address quality-of-life issues in its downtown neighborhood. We’re glad it’s addressing this one.

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