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. 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 is in the “doughnut hole,” entirely surrounded by business districts that are AIAs. The result is predictable, with chronic public inebriates who are unable to purchase enriched beer or wine in those areas now coming to Eastlake to purchase these products, and with an apparent impact on public safety.
Unfortunately when , Eastlake was not aware of the process and was not included. Now Eastlake is surrounded by these two Alcohol Impact Areas which limit the sales of fortified beer and wine surround our neighborhood 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.

The advice we have 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. (The current boundaries of the North and Central AIAs are seen in the attached documents.)

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.

Attached is the 2013 letter in which the Eastlake Community Council first asked the Mayor, City Council, Department of Neighborhood, and Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board to get started on this process. The response we received from the Board (reprinted below) made it clear that City must make the first move. We have made extensive efforts since then to get City officials involved, and no one has been willing to take ownership of this issue. In the attached August 4, 2015 letter to the Mayor and City Council, the Lake Union District Council expressed concern that the City “has not gotten started on processing the 2013 request by the Eastlake Community Council for the Eastlake neighborhood to be included in an Alcohol Impact Area (AIA).”
The City Council did not include Eastlake when Alcohol Impact Areas were established that
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.In an Oct. 15, 2013 letter, ECC wrote to the Washington Liquor Control Board and Seattle elected officials, asking that Eastlake be included in an Alcohol Impact Area. AIAs restrict sale of fortified beers and wines favored by chronic public inebriates because they have more alcohol for less money. ECC received no responses 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.”

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 on to the newly elected Mayor Ed Murray, on whose behalf the Department of Neighborhoods responded on xx 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.”

The City Council decision to add Eastlake to an AIA would involve many opportunities for public comment. For background, see the Liquor Control Board’s web site at http://liq.wa.gov/licensing/alcohol-impact-areas. ECC welcomes your thoughts, pro or con, to info@eastlakseattle.org.

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