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WI: Hold off on single beer sales ban, chief says

WI: Hold off on single beer sales ban, chief says


Green Bay Pess-Gazette

By Adam Rodewald, USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

June 7, 2016

GREEN BAY – Police have six months to prove they can cut down public intoxication and littering around downtown before the City Council reconsiders banning single sales of beer.

Police Chief Andrew Smith told the Council’s protection and welfare committee Monday that he believes a citywide prohibition against selling single cans of beer and small bottles of liquor is unnecessary.

Instead, Smith suggested adding up to four new community policing officers in the downtown area, expanding a “no-serve” list of chronic alcoholics and writing more tickets for littering.

“If we can do that without affecting the entire city… it seems that would be a prudent way to move,” Smith said.

Alderman Guy Zima first proposed the ban in April. He said it would reduce litter problems, panhandling and alcohol-related crimes. The idea is to make it harder for alcoholics to buy cheap drinks, such as 40-ounce cans of beer.

The committee ultimately went along with Smith’s recommendation under the condition he study how many incidents involved people buying single cans or bottles of alcohol. He must report his findings in six months, and the committee will decide then whether to continue pursuing a ban.

City staff will also explore options for requiring liquor license holders to contribute money, perhaps through higher licensing fees, to pay for litter cleanup and alcohol treatment services.

Badger Liquor owner Ben Smits, who opposed the ban on single sales, praised the police chief’s proposal and said he’d be willing to pay more for cleanup and services as long as other owners also pay.

Smits said a ban would hurt his business at 1047 W. Mason St. because he sells more than 1,000 single cans and bottles weekly.

“I think this (police enforcement plan) shows we can all get along on this issue,” Smits said.

But Zima argued a ban would eliminate the source of the problem — cheap alcohol — while reducing demand on police resources.

“If you don’t have the places for people to buy it, then they don’t buy it,” Zima said. “Now I’m adding more to your budget rather than getting rid of the problem that might be at the root of it.”

Alderman Bill Galvin, a former police officer, said mental health and addiction are at the root of the problem, and more study is needed to know if a ban on single containers would help.

“I just don’t want to see us pushing the problem into other areas,” Galvin said. “I want a solution in place that solves the problem.”