Making Eastlake an Alcohol Impact Area

The Eastlake Community Council has been trying for several years to have the City government get started on including our neighborhood in an Alcohol Impact Area (AIA). The North and Central AIAs that the City and the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board established in 2006 for Downtown, South Lake Union, Capitol Hill, and the University District left Eastlake in the “doughnut hole,” entirely surrounded by business districts that are AIAs.

Unfortunately Eastlake was not aware of this proposal until after its adoption. Now Eastlake is surrounded by these two Alcohol Impact Areas which limit the sales of fortified beer and wine and create an incentive for businesses to sell these products in Eastlake, bringing to Eastlake precisely the social and crime impacts that caused these AIAs to be set up in the neighborhoods that surround Eastlake. Chronic public inebriates who are unable to purchase enriched beer or wine in those areas now come to Eastlake to purchase these products, and with an apparent impact on public safety.

ECC supports voluntary efforts at compliance, as the required first step toward being included in an Alcohol Impact Area, and in the voluntary cooperation with industry that Seattle has been undertaking outside the framework of AIAs. However, these voluntary efforts are no substitute for Eastlake being included in an AIA. Being surrounded by AIAs, Eastlake will continue to suffer until it too is included. AIAs restrict sale of fortified beers and wines favored by chronic public inebriates because they have more alcohol for less money.

The advice ECC has from the Department of Neighborhoods is that the most feasible way to include Eastlake in an AIA is simply to expand the North Alcohol Impact Area southward. There would be no need to establish a new AIA, just to change the boundaries of an existing one. The needed boundary change would have the North AIA extend south to abut the Central AIA, with the west boundary being Lake Union and the east boundary being I-5 and the parts of Franklin Avenue East that are east of I-5.

Under the rules of the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, the process for including an area in an AIA starts with City legislation authorizing a process of City-monitored voluntary efforts; voluntary efforts that do not involve this official City involvement do not count with the state Board. After the City-monitored voluntary efforts have been tried and evaluated and if an AIA is still wanted, further City legislation and state Board action would actually designate the AIA boundaries.

Accordingly, in an Oct. 15, 2013 letter, the Eastlake Community Council asked the Mayor, City Council, Department of Neighborhoods, and Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board to get started on the process to include Eastlake in an Alcohol Impact Area. ECC received no responses to this letter from any members of the City Council or then Mayor Mike McGinn, although the Liquor Control Board responded that “The creation of an alcohol impact area must begin with an ordinance adopted by the City and following that adoption voluntary compliance must be attempted for a minimum of six months before the City can petition the LCB for recognition of the AIA.”

ECC has made extensive efforts since then to get City officials involved, and no one has been willing to take ownership of this issue. In April 2014, ECC wrote again to the City Council, hearing back from Councilmembers Tom Rasmussen, Nick Licata, and Mike O’Brien, but not the others (click here for the e-mail to Bruce Harrell, chair of the City Council’s public safety committee; similar e-mails went to all nine City Councilmembers; Licata was the only member of the public safety committee who responded (the other member was Sally Bagshaw).

ECC also wrote to then Mayor Ed Murray, on whose behalf the Department of Neighborhoods responded that “The City of Seattle is continuing to assess the Voluntary Ban pilot (note, the establishment of a voluntary ban is a preliminary step for the creation of an AIA) and its ability to mitigate community problems with public inebriation and other illegal activities associated to the sale of alcohol. Additionally, the Mayor’s Office is continuing to work with beer, wine and liquor distributors to evaluate the success of the pilot voluntary ban areas in Greater Duwamish, Beacon Hill and Lake City.”

Any City Council decision to add Eastlake to an AIA would be preceded by many opportunities for public comment. For background, see the Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board’s web site at ECC welcomes your thoughts, pro or con, to