News from Patrick Flynn

Liquor lobbying

One of my former co-workers was known for several catch phrases including, “Sometimes ya gotta go backward before you can go forward.”  So, with your indulgence, today’s post begins with a little history (or you can read the longer version here).

Regular readers know that when I joined the Assembly there was just one package (retail alcohol sales) store in the downtown area and that store was subject to a number of required management practices in its conditional use permit (CUP), which was negotiated with the neighborhood back in the early 90’s.  Almost immediately thereafter an application for a new package store came before the Assembly and representatives of the incumbent establishment, a Brown Jug outlet, testified that their CUP worked well and fairness dictated that the Assembly apply the same standards to the new store.  With a minor tweak (accepted by the Downtown Community Council) the new owners agreed, we amended Brown Jug’s CUP to read the same way, and all was well.

In the intervening years we’ve seen a couple more applications for new package stores in the downtown area and, each time, have imposed the same standards.  This ad hoc process made me uncomfortable as new business owners weren’t learning about the requirements until after crafting their business plans, and it left room for error (failing to add the conditions to a new application via an oversight).  To rectify this I gained approval of legislation codifying the requirements for all downtown package stores, thereby ensuring everyone knows the ground rules ahead of time.

Since then the liquor industry has expressed concerns with this legislation, with Brown Jug going so far as to place misleading petitions in their stores.  (I’ve read these “push polls” and they enjoy only a fleeting relationship with reality while failing to acknowledge Brown Jug’s role in encouraging some of the very practices the petitions now decry.  Heck, if I didn’t know the full story I’d probably sign the darn thing myself.)

Last November, in the spirit of cooperation, I met with representatives of K&L (Alaska’s largest alcohol distributor), Anheuser-Busch, CHARR and the Wine Institute (a Brown Jug representative was invited but had a conflict and did not attend) to discuss the new ordinance and whether it might be better to look at some different management practices that could be applied throughout Anchorage, as opposed to store by store or neighborhood by neighborhood.  I understand the desire for consistency and found the request reasonable, so I asked that they discuss among themselves what might work for them and to get back to me so we could engage some of the neighborhoods that have concerns along these lines.

I’m disappointed to report that I’ve yet to hear back from those representatives, and even more disappointed to learn the reported reason I haven’t heard back is that Brown Jug, Anchorage’s dominant alcohol retailer, refuses to participate.

I did hear from Brown Jug on another matter, though, as they coerced one of my colleagues to “lay on the table” an 11th hour ordinance calling for an April advisory vote on 100% ID check and wanted my support.  I was amazed that an organization applying pejorative language to describe practices they once supported, refusing to work with neighborhoods on mutually agreeable management practices and using the state Alcoholic Beverage Control board (where a Brown Jug executive serves as chair) to provoke “discussion” on the role of community councils in setting CUP requirements would have the temerity to then seek my support for this non-sequitur legislation.  Indeed, I may have been a tad too emphatic in expressing my disdain.

What makes this particularly vexing is that quite a few retailers have voluntarily adopted 100% ID check as part of their management process without any fuss and, further, I don’t consider 100% ID check to be a panacea.  Certainly it can help prevent those who shouldn’t have alcohol from getting it, but it’s not a substitute for a robust process that uses a variety of techniques to promote responsible consumption.  So why propose an advisory vote on something that, at best, is only a partial solution?

My guess?  Because Brown Jug is unwilling to work with the Assembly and neighborhood groups to develop mutually agreeable community-wide management practices they’ve instead decided to pursue this legislation as a distraction.  If this advisory vote makes the ballot they’ll fund a vigorous opposition campaign (meanwhile, no one will be campaigning for it) to engineer its defeat and then can cite the result as proof that improving industry practices is unnecessary.

I hope I’m wrong about the motivations behind this and that my skepto-meter is simply out of whack.  As with most things, time will tell…



P.S. In case you’re wondering, an Assembly vote on February 1 will determine whether this advisory will be on the April ballot.

This contribution was made on Thursday, 20. January 2011 at 01:59 and was published under the category Neighborhoods. You can follow comments on this entry through the RSS-Feed.

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  1. you are wise to be wary

    Comment: friend43 – 20. January 2011 @ 11:32 am

  2. Your former co-worker was probably one of the guys making up a string of cars for the trains….
    Thanks for the insights. It would be interesting to have a link to Brown Jug’s petition, and also to know what percentage of their sales is for cheap booze like Monarch Vodka.

    Comment: Bob – 20. January 2011 @ 1:53 pm

  3. […] for an advisory vote on 100% identification check at package stores (readers already know how I feel about that […]

    Pingback: News from Assemblyman Patrick Flynn » First and (a) long (meeting) | An Assembly member's take on Anchorage issues – 01. February 2011 @ 1:37 am

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