Monday, February 16, 2009

Booze is Bad. Bad, Bad, Bad!

Alcohol has long been a hot topic in Uptown. The issue has only grown in stature as Uptown's daytime/evening balance has tipped increasingly towards more bars and restaurants and fewer daytime retail shops and amenities. There have been alcohol-related incidents of vandalism, not to mention loud and messy drunks on the sidewalks, sloshed drivers on our streets, and other negative impacts of too much booze.

There is a balance to be struck. Minnesota still has remnants of its teetotaler (dare I say uptight?) past, and a knee-jerk aversion to alcohol and its evils can still be readily found. Perhaps as a result of this it becomes clear when looking back over recent Uptown history that the neighborhood's internal conflict over the appropriate role of alcohol in the neighborhood is alive and well.

Alcohol is a part of Uptown life, for both good and bad. Wine tastings are a regular occurrence, with revenue from one such event going to benefit the neighborhoods themselves.

I think that most Uptowners are pretty understanding about liquor. We realize that responsible adults should be able to enjoy beer or wine with a meal or have a drink at an area bar. We also know that there are those who abuse alcohol. Rather than putting all of the blame itself on the booze - not an inherently bad or even unhealthy drink if consumed in reasonable amounts - let's focus on making sure that area restaurants and bars are following the relevant laws. Definitely crack down on drunk drivers. If problem drunks seem to be originating from one place, then by all means let's address that specific issue. But periodic hysteric and ridiculous statements of the "booze is bad" type simply distract from the bigger issues.

Take, for example, the 2006 debate over whether to allow the sale of beer and wine at the Tin Fish restaurant by Lake Calhoun. The Tin Fish claimed that their liquor license application came at the request of neighborhood customers themselves. The ECCO Board had mixed feelings on the matter, with at least one board member noting the appeal of a nice glass of wine with dinner. One board member, however, voiced an all-too-common viewpoint of the booze-is-bad crowd:

Do we really need to have alcohol in the park, where kids have to sit and watch?

(Uptown Area News, May 2006)

Heaven forbid a child actually observe an adult sip a glass of wine or a light beer. Luckily for the most part Uptown area boards and residents are trying to take a somewhat fair approach, acknowledging the benefits of alcohol in moderation and trying to reduce the negative impacts that come with too much of it. It can be a tricky balance, but with open communication, a willingness to see multiple sides of an issue, and continued close relationships with the various constituencies involved (businesses, police, neighborhoods, etc.) Uptown should be able to tackle the booze problem.

Now just imagine the sparks that would fly if someone were to announce the construction of a highrise lakeside building with a rooftop open-air bar...

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