Letter from the Editor

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

A sobering effort by the city council

Here's a toast to the Storm Lake Public Safety Administration and city council, for at least considering an effort to control problem drinking in this city.

The city heard a proposal Monday to ban drinking specials - those "drink 'til you drown" kind of free-for-alls. There is no denying that hundreds of people get arrested each year for alcohol abuse in the city, and of course, many lives are ruined by alcoholism. While most who drink do so socially and responsibly, some end up in the local emergency room with dangerous alcohol poisoning.

I'm not real certain the city's proposal will stand up, however. Does it legally have a right to dictate how private businesses sell their product legally according to all federal and state laws?

And if Storm Lake stands alone in making a stand, won't young drinkers just drive to the next city with its "nickel pitchers," "ladies get in free nights," drinking games and less restricting rules of service? That would just stand to put more dangerous drunks on the roads instead of the local "drunk bus" shuttle.

It's too bad it takes additional local regulation to try to get a handle on the problems. Maybe with a meeting involving local liquor establishments, policy could be voluntarily considered? The bar owners surely don't like their businesses mentioned in those articles on alcohol related confrontations, crime, injuries and illnesses.

The community must also be realistic - if we want people, especially young people, to do less drinking, we had better provide more evening alternative activities.

Also, if we are serious about controlling underage drinking, perhaps we should finally take the big step of barring those who are underage from being in bars (with the exception of bar and grills during food service hours.)

There is probably nothing the city can do for those people who are sadly dedicated to binge drinking. Legal or otherwise, they will find a way to get all they want. All the new laws, increased police efforts, or university attempts at education and alternatives, is going to keep a drunk from getting drunk. Not as long as society treats it as acceptable, cute, sexy or amusing.

Whether the city proposal advances or not, our leaders have done something here. They've sent a message that our community is about more than lip service and fines for the city coffers when it comes to alcoholism and youth drinking.

If the ordinance doesn't stand up, maybe some of the borderline binge drinkers will, while they are still able.