No more for the road: East Albany residents looking to slow proliferation of alcohol outlets

Jon Howard

ALBANY — A group of ministers, business owners and residents in east Albany is ready to say, “I think you’ve had enough” to another round of alcohol establishments.

The group plans to make its case during a news conference next week and will include the Revs. Lorenzo Heard and Donnie Green, among other opponents to a proposed liquor store at 1515 Clark Ave., according to a news release sent on Wednesday.

The request for an alcohol license to allow package alcohol sales at the location in Ward II is one of three in east Albany — the others are in Ward I — that will be under consideration by the Albany City Commission this month.

“It will be some concerned citizens, homeowners, elected officials, former elected officials,” Ward I Commissioner Jon Howard, who issued the news release, said. “We are going to stress we do not want another liquor store in east Albany. I’ve talked with my ministers, community leaders and mostly homeowners. We just don’t want to see another liquor store within a mile (of another) in the ward.”

The effort comes after an unsuccessful move by Howard and Ward VI Commissioner Demetrius Young earlier this year to enact a temporary moratorium on issuing new alcohol licenses while the city conducts a study on the impact on the density of those establishments.

Including restaurants, bars, convenience and package stores, there are more than 200 businesses with alcohol sales licenses in the city, Howard said. Many alcohol sales locations are in distressed neighborhoods and can increase crime in neighborhoods where they are located.

Northwest Albany has the largest density of those, but that includes a large number of restaurants.

Diners may have a couple of drinks with a meal, “but when you go out and get that cheap liquor and wine, you don’t go home afterwards,” Howard said. “You’re out there terrorizing your community.”

The commissioner has made it a practice to vote against all alcohol license applications, which he attributes to his spending more than 20 years in mental health services where he saw the impact of excessive alcohol use on individuals.

Albany Mayor Bo Dorough said he thinks examining the impact of a proliferation of alcohol sales points in neighborhoods is a good idea. However, he agreed there is a difference between restaurants and package sales in communities that are struggling.

He said he would welcome a presentation to the commission that includes information about the issue that has been gathered by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other research centers.

“I understand there is a problem when you have a large number of establishments in a distressed neighborhood,” Dorough said. “On the other hand, if people meet the requirements, they are entitled to a license. This idea of linking all crime to alcohol establishments is a little far-fetched.”

The city also has a specified limit on the number of establishments that can be located in each ward, the mayor said.

The news conference is scheduled for 1 p.m. Thursday at 1513 Clark Ave.

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