I have often on my radio program lamented the drinking culture of Wisconsin.
It is embarrassing to have six or more of the “drunkest cities in America” be from our state on several versions of lists circulating social media. As such, it might seem to run counter to my opening statement to support the Janesville City Council’s decision to eliminate our Class A liquor license quota. But allow me to offer some thoughts on the matter.
First, there is no empirical evidence that directly links increased availability of package alcohol sales to increased use. There are numerous studies on the subject, but I could find none that offer a direct cause/effect relationship of packaged alcohol sales. Locally, arguments against removing Janesville’s quota were largely based on “concerns,” not evidence-based conclusions. Using such a basis would suggest that any “concern” about anything could be used to promote or dismiss business activity in our city.
Second, as the city’s development director pointed out, if a prospective business includes alcohol sales as part of its business model, a community that denies a permit based on an arbitrary number of licenses limits its appeal to certain businesses to locate in the community. While such an argument could be answered with a brush-off, “let them go elsewhere, then” response, it sends a message to the entirety of the business community that we are difficult to work with.
Finally, we are talking about carry-out sales of wine and beer/malt beverages, not hard alcohol. Who does not know any number of friends or relatives who have a few bottles, or a full fridge, of wine and beer already stocked? I contend that adding to the number of establishments selling such products would not increase the stocks we all might already have. That is where most underage drinkers get their supplies.
In my view, the finger pointing at businesses who sell alcoholic beverages or the city officials who would seek to let competition, not conjecture, determine the number of those establishments, is inappropriately placed.
Point the finger at organizations who use the draw of alcohol to underscore the perception that it is impossible to have a good time without a drink. There are, for instance, charitable organizations that seek to benefit children using “bar crawls” and similar activities to fundraise. There is no end to charitable “meat raffles” and other fundraisers for family tragedies held in local bars and taverns that underscore the narrative we need beer (alcohol) to succeed.
There can apparently be no musical performances without beer or alcohol. No ballgames. No festivals. No fishing outings or contests. The only high-profile local events I am aware of that seek to buck the trend of “alcohol adds to the bottom line,” are FreedomFest and the Rock County 4-H Fair.
In short, to suggest that the mere presence of additional businesses that sell wine and beer is the problem is the height of short-sightedness. Reduce the demand for a product, and the market for sales will contract automatically. This is something I learned in grade school economics—supply and demand.
So rather than place the blame on those selling alcohol, let’s put it where it belongs—on those persons and organizations who promote the myth that an event cannot be successful without it.