Business owners seeing big changes in alcohol impact areas

SPOKANE, Wash. - It's been 12 days since high-alcohol content beer has been banned from store shelves in East Spokane and on South Perry and business owners say it's made a drastic difference.

As a mandatory alcohol impact area recently went into effect along Sprague from Perry to Havana, longtime business owners in the impact areas say it's made a drastic difference now that high alcohol content, cheap beer, like Colt 45, can't be sold in their neighborhoods.

For James Hanley Sprague Avenue is home.

"We've been in this block since 1945, before I was even born," he said.

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But this business owner has had extra company recently; after the downtown Spokane alcohol impact area went into effect public drunkenness moved his way.

"I've had to come down here and break up fights and call 911 of people fighting over bags of malt liquor," Spokane City Councilman Jon Synder said.

Snyder, who owns a small business in the East Central neighborhood, said it was a "real problem," but all of that changed on September 15, when 46 beers like High Gravity and Colt 45 were banned from store shelves.

"Just immediately after that we saw few and few of the transients, the alcoholics in our area and in a weeks time it was very, very noticeable," Hanley said.

At first the city council voted on placing a voluntary ban on high alcohol content beers, but then the Washington State Liquor Control Board voted to make it a mandatory ban.

"You have got to show the displacement occurs, you have to prove there is an impact with report and statistics," Snyder said.

But for those who used to sell the liquor with high alcohol content, the side effect is that business has slowed and some customers don't think the changes are right.

"They are not happy, they are feeling like it's unfair and unjust," John Proctor at the HiCo Market in the South Perry District said.

At the HiCo high alcohol content beers are still sold, only these beers typically cost a little more than the ones banned from their shelves.

"I believe it's a lot of discrimination, more than just a little," Proctor said.

Several other cities in Washington have these alcohol impact areas in place, including Tacoma, which has two, and Seattle, which has three.