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Concentration of bars, liquor stores negatively impacts health of area residents

A liquor store at the corner of Altadena Avenue and El Cajon Boulevard in San Diego, Feb. 9, 2016.
Claire Trageser
A liquor store at the corner of Altadena Avenue and El Cajon Boulevard in San Diego, Feb. 9, 2016.

In San Diego this year, fatalities from DUI-related crashes are spiking, with this year's total marking the highest number of fatal DUI’s in two decades. In addition to increasing DUI rates, alcohol sales are at an all-time high. Some communities have a higher concentration of businesses that sell alcohol than others, which is causing inequity and a potential danger to community members.

The Alcohol Policy Panel of San Diego County is hosting its annual meeting Friday, and will discuss the negative impacts of an increased amount of alcohol outlets around the county.

Catherine Patterson, co-director for CityHealth and the keynote speaker at the Alcohol Policy Panel meeting, and David Shorey, East County program director for Institute for Public Strategies joined KPBS Midday Edition on Thursday to talk about how alcohol outlet density impacts San Diegans.


RELATED: San Diego County DUI deaths break record in 2021

"Many folks may not be aware that the placement and numbers of stores that sell alcohol can also make a huge difference in the health of a community," Patterson said. "Neighborhoods that have these high concentrations of stores, have been linked with an increase of individual drinking habits, including young people who then engage in binge drinking. Second, studies have found that communities that have these high concentrations of alcohol outlets also have increased rates of violence and violent crime."

Shorey said we are seeing an overconcentration of bars and liquor stores in many parts of the county.

"You think of the areas that are more inclined to have bars, liquor stores in entertainment areas, but we also see it in the rural areas as well," Shorey said. "For example in East County, the area of Casa de Oro, the area of Spring Valley, the area of Lemon Grove, all have areas which are overconcentrated, and have contributed to increases in ... crime, but also public health impacts."

He said it also has a negative impact on equity as well.


"When you have overconcentration of alcohol retailers, say you have a business district that has multiple bars, multiple liquor stores, multiple corner markets and that seems to be the dominant business activity there, it tends to not be a welcoming area perception wise. The liquor stores, the corner markets, etc., will crowd out, and they'll attract a certain clientele that maybe other business owners don't want to attract," Shorey said. "You see in communities that have these overconcentration, that there's less public investment, there's less revitalization that happens, and people tend to not want to visit these, therefore, not investing their money in these communities."

Patterson said San Diego has earned a silver medal from CityHealth's Safer Alcohol Sales Medal Criteria, but can still work towards a higher ranking of gold by limiting the density of alcohol stores and regulating sales.

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