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Tacoma Approves New Alcohol Impact Area Bordering University Place

Tacoma has approved a voluntary Alcohol Impact Area (AIA) on the west side, near the University Place city border. Could this create a local public safety issue?

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It’s getting harder to find a cheap buzz in Tacoma, after a new Alcohol Impact Area (AIA) was approved Tuesday in the city’s north and west neighborhoods.

The new AIA zone is the largest out of Tacoma's three, roughly spanning the west side of town, from 19th and Center streets near the UP border to the Narrows Bridge and Cedar and Alder streets to Commencement Bay and Ruston. There are 37 impacted businesses in that area that can no longer sell cheap, high-alcohol content drinks like Colt 45 and Thunderbird.

Tacoma Councilmember Joe Lonergan questioned whether this new AIA would create a spillover into neighboring communities before the vote on Feb. 26, 2013. Patch wondered the same.

Will those searching for a cheap buzz make their way into University Place?

“While it is realistic to expect people to make their way here because fortified wine can be purchased in our stores, I think being able to walk into any Safeway in Tacoma and buy cheap whiskey now may save us,” said University Place Police Chief Mike Blair.

He added that there has been an increase in public safety issues since the implementation of I-1183 in University Place, as liquor is easily accessible in local stores.

“The big impact we have had is in fact the sales of hard liquor in the grocery stores,” said Blair. “Operating hours and the ease of taking it off the shelf without assistance has made for quite an increase in shoplifting and strong-armed robbery cases.”

While Tacoma’s new AIA related to malt liquor and fortified wine sales has been approved by its city council, the ordinance is still considered “voluntary,” said Tacoma Police spokeswoman Loretta Cool. TPD will present compliance statistics to the Tacoma council at the end of August. At that time, the city council can vote in the permanent boundary.

"If voluntary compliance is achieved and the crime stats related to chronic inebriation drop then the ordinance will stand. If voluntary compliance is not achieved then the ordinance will have another reading to make it an enforceable municipal code," said Cool.

Blair said he supports the neighboring town’s new law, as University Place continues to deal with alcohol-related crime.

"I agree with legislation cities enact to help improve public safety in their jurisdictions. I have a great working relationship with [the] Liquor Control Board and they have given me insight on how an AIA works and how one can get established," said Blair. "That tool is in our back pocket, if we need it."

What do you think of Tacoma's new AIA? Would it work in University Place? Tell us in the comments. 

Jack February 28, 2013 at 05:54 AM
All hail the Nanny-State!
James Rand February 28, 2013 at 04:22 PM
You got that right, Jack.
Musique February 28, 2013 at 10:04 PM
oh brother, or should I say, "oh big brother". sheesh.

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