By Amanda Waldroupe, Staff Writer
City Commissioner Amanda Fritz’s office and the Office of Neighborhood Involvement is attempting to decrease the amount of public drinking in downtown Portland by convincing grocery store owners to voluntarily not carry certain kinds of alcoholic beverages.
But all the initiative is resulting in so far is fury from grocery store owners, collective agreement that it is not a real solution, with only a fraction of them agreeing to comply.
“VibrantPDX,” as the initiative is called, is a voluntary agreement between grocery stores and the Office of Neighborhood Involvement not to sell alcoholic beverages with high-alcohol content. That includes malt liquor and beer with names such as Old English 800, Steel Reserve, Milwaukie’s Best Ice and Camo Malt Liquor.
All grocery stores east and north of I-405, south of Lovejoy Avenue, and west of the Willamette River have been asked to sign the agreement. There are 67 grocery stores within those limits.
The purpose of the program is to decrease what proponents call “street drinking,” or drinking in public. It is illegal in Portland, and offenders are given a citation, which does not come with fines or other types of punishment.
The Portland Police Bureau gave 1,740 citations for public drinking in downtown Portland in 2009. That accounts for 53 percent of all public drinking in the city. Twenty-five percent of all individuals being held in detox came from the downtown area.
Steve Mattsson, the manager of Hooper Detox’s sobering station for intoxicated individuals, says the station has 12,000 admissions a year. Fifty percent of those people are ones that will return, Mattsson says, “on a repeated basis.” In his mind, there is no doubt that there is a street drinking problem.
“Over the last two years, one of the most frequent complaints we get were problems around street drinking,” says Mark Friedman, a Central Precinct officer.
“It is a compelling problem in a small area,” says Theresa Marchetti, ONI’s liquor license specialist. She emphasized that it is a location and not store-based problem. “(And) it’s not a problem we can really ignore.” Continue reading