Tomorrow is intern Katie Becker's last day. Coupled with fellow intern Tiffany Wan, Becker has given me a new appreciation for unpaid interns, who, when incompetent,

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Becker on Booze

"Apparently, you have to have a certain income to drink in this town and that's that."

Tomorrow is intern Katie Becker's last day. Coupled with fellow intern Tiffany Wan, Becker has given me a new appreciation for unpaid interns, who, when incompetent, can be more trouble than they're worth. If as talented and energetic as Becker and Wan, however, they become virtually indispensable. We'll miss you, Kate (and Tiffany, whenever your term expires -- let it be never). But before we bid Becker adieu, we handcuffed and packed her into the back of a police cruiser, which dropped her off at yesterday's Liquor Board work session concerning the city's desire to expand its Alcohol Impact Area, where she filed the following dispatch:

Yesterday afternoon, at the end of the Liquor Control Board's Alcohol Impact Area (AIA) "work session," LCB officer Roger Hoen remarked that individuals must give up certain freedoms for the safety and greater good of our community -- and then immediately reassured everyone that he was in no way comparing cheap liquor control to terrorism. When public remarks sound like something we would normally hear from the White House, you have to wonder about the discussions behind closed doors. Maybe 40 oz. bottles of Mickey's don't mean much to Hoen or anyone in the financial position to bring a law suit, but we're still talking about economic discrimination. The proposal -- to expand the AIA from just Pioneer Square to downtown, Belltown, lower Queen Anne, Capitol Hill, the Central District, the International District, and the entirety of the University District -- has morphed into one which would ban 22 specific beer and malt beverages, as well as six specific wine products as detailed in Jim Brunner's story in the Times today. According to Liquor Control Board Retail Manager Karen McCall, these products are the ones that are found most often as litter in areas considered to have high levels of chronic public inebriation (CPI). All of them also happen to be the cheapest versions of alcoholic products whose more expensive brands will still be offered if the AIA expansion goes through.

During the meeting, McCall thoughtfully offered testimonial from citizens in favor of the AIA expansion. However, after sharing one opposing letter from a resident who clearly felt every person deserves the right to cheap beer, she shirked discussion and simply moved onto the next slide. McCall then explained that a "formula approach" to banning the liquors of trouble would not be efficient because there were too many brands" -- literally thousands. Rather than setting a rule that removes liquors based on specific alcoholic classifications, they will be banned by name only.

Tell me, how is this more efficient? Like the arbitrary boundaries of the AIAs, the brand list will have to be continually expanded as new products hit the market (some of them, I expect, created purely to get around the new restrictions). Are we actually going to chase the chronic public inebriates around the city banning whatever brand choice and park preference appears to be popular as they adapt their behavior to the new AIA specifications?

During the entire "work study" (as Liquor Control Board Chairman Merritt D. Long called the meeting), the discussion never touched on the obvious economic discrimination implicit in the AIA legislation. The conversation was tunneled purely into logistics and there appeared to be a ceiling as to how intellectual the questions at the meeting could get. Apparently, you have to have a certain income to drink in this town and that's that.

 
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