The president of the 103-store Plaid Pantry grocery chain, Chris Girard, has taken a position against a city plan to ban sales of malt liquor and fortified wine downtown, the Mercury has learned.
Girard emailed his thoughts to Commissioner Amanda Fritz, leading the push, on Monday. And he also made sure her fellow commissioners received copies this morning. His is a potentially influential voice. More than half of his stores are in Portland, and his company is not known for giving the Oregon Liquor Control Commission heartburn.
Girard, in fact, had backed an earlier, voluntary version of the proposal, and has praised a similar ban in Washington, where some of his stores are located. But he said Portland's plan, as currently structured, is too flawed to get behind.
Girard has raised questions about the city's legwork, saying it did not do enough outreach when it expanded the boundaries of what had been a voluntary effort and made it permanent. He also says the boundaries should be wider, to capture more neighborhoods where public drinking is problematic, and that restrictions should be based on brands of alcohol, not the size of the container the booze is sold in.
In Seattle, his letter notes, the ban on sales targets only problem brands. Portland's ban, meanwhile, punishes customers who aren't street drinkers but like to keep 16-ounce cans of regular beer in the fridge. He also suggests the Seattle ban wasn't effective until its boundaries were expanded beyond the worst clusters of arrests.
The meeting on the proposed "alcohol impact area" is planned for 6 PM tomorrow night in the City Council chambers. Girard won't be the only retailer, drinker, civil libertarian, or regular Joe or Jane showing up to talk about the proposal. Some might even show up to support it.
"It looks like a pretty good turnout," says Theresa Marchetti, the staffer working on the proposal for the Office of Neighborhood Involvement.
And no matter what the city council decides, much of what any final ban might look like will be determined by the OLCC. That process could last up to a year.