Chug-a-Lug 

Retailers Dodge the Bullet on Booze Ban

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A PROPOSED BAN on the alcoholic beverages favored by those who drink in public has been pushed back another month, until May 1.

Portland's Office of Neighborhood Involvement is drafting a voluntary pact between grocers in the downtown area that would end the sale of potent malt liquor and inexpensive box wine ["Booze Ban," News, Feb 18].

The pact, called VIBRANT PDX, was originally supposed to go into effect on April Fool's Day. Now the city is taking more time to revise it, easing restrictions on higher-end retailers.

As a result, some of the ban's most vocal support comes from store owners who won't be affected.

Dan McCallum, owner of Vinopolis on SW Washington, says he initially couldn't accept the ban. "A couple of girls from the city agency came with a letter about the first proposal," which banned all wine above a certain alcohol content, says McCallum. "I said, there's a lot of my wine that's above that."

After responses like his, city staffers went back to the drawing board.

"We wanted to lessen the impact on specialty wine stores," says Theresa Marchetti, the city liquor licensing coordinator who is organizing the effort.

McCallum signed the agreement once the restrictions that concerned him were removed. Now, he says, "it doesn't impact me at all."

Doug Peterson, who owns three convenience stores downtown, told the Mercury in February that the ban would be difficult to accept. "It would have affected us as originally written," says Peterson. "They wanted to ban all beer above a certain alcohol content and single beers."

But now the restrictions that concerned him have been removed. "I have signed the agreement, says Peterson. "It fits our needs."

As for malt liquor? "We've never carried any of those," says Peterson. "And it's been our policy for years that we won't sell liquor to transients."

Meanwhile, small convenience stores that sell cheap liquor are less likely to welcome an agreement that puts them in the crosshairs.

"I know the owners of the Ma and Pa Market at SW 12th and Washington," says McCallum at Vinopolis. "They sell to a lot of the people who live in the [affordable housing] residences nearby. So they didn't sign it."

The owners of Ma and Pa Market declined comment. A co-owner of Georgia's Grocery on SW Stark, who did not wish to be identified, says he didn't sign the agreement and doesn't plan to.

Marchetti, with the city, says that two markets in Old Town/Chinatown—Helen's Market and the Chinatown Convenience Store—have agreed to the ban. "They voluntarily agreed before we started," says Marchetti.

The city says that if enough businesses don't sign on, the restrictions could become mandatory. But imposing an outright ban would be much harder.

"Once we started the process, it would take at least two years," says Marchetti. "And a voluntary agreement has the potential of being easily changed."

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