Photo by Ty Swenson
The signage at a White Center convenience store advertises several single serve malt liquor options. The Sheriff's Office, alcohol distributors and community organizations are teaming up to encourage a voluntary ban on off-premise sales of such drinks from 6 am to 1 pm.

Alcohol initiative in White Center will encourage voluntary ban on ‘single serve’ sales before 1 p.m.

A longtime source of concern for White Center business owners and citizens is the population of chronic, often homeless, inebriates living in or frequenting the area who, in many cases, starting to drink as soon as local convenience stores open their doors in the morning.

The alcohol of choice is usually “tall boys” of malt liquor with a powerful alcohol punch compared to regular beer, or fortified wine, such as MD 20/20. The price is low and the buzz is significant.

A new plan has been finalized to encourage White Center businesses to hold off on the sale of alcoholic malt beverages and fortified wine from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m., according to White Center Storefront Deputy BJ Myers. Update for 3/15: The voluntary ban will only apply to businesses selling alcohol for "off premise" use. In other words, "bars, restaurants, and sales of non-fortified wine are not part of the ban," Myers said.

Myers said three distributors (Columbia, K&L and Odom) will contact their customers (the resellers) over the next week to ask for their participation.

“Keep in mind this is a voluntary alcohol ban,” Myers said. “The real drivers of the program will be the three distribution companies; the Sheriff’s Office is a supporter and will monitor how the program impacts public safety.”

In 2011, the White Center Chamber of Commerce tried out a voluntary program to have businesses put up “We Support Responsible Alcohol Sales” stickers in the windows and sign a “good neighbor agreement” stating they “agree to follow a voluntary restriction on the sale of certain alcohol to people who are visibly intoxicated,” Chamber President Mark Ufkes said at the time.

The program did not produce significant results, and now the Chamber, King County Sheriff’s Office, Washington State Liquor Board, beer distributors and White Center Community Development Association are back to working on a solution. Update for 3/15: The North Highline Unincorporated Area Council (NHUAC) has also announced their support of the alcohol initiative. "One of the strengths NHUAC brings to the group is a high profile in the neighborhood, which I hope will help raise awareness of the voluntary alcohol ban and the impact on the neighborhood," Myers said.

In addition to the distributor request for an early day ban on sales, Chamber President Mark Ufkes said his organization has identified ten retailers in White Center “that tend to sell the products that are used by our chronic homeless, alcoholic population” and is asking the Washington State Liquor Control Board to “more closely monitor those ten businesses and what they are doing.”

“Those ten know what they are doing and they are not helping these people get to a better place in their lives,” he said, adding that the Chamber will once again distribute responsible alcohol sales stickers to area businesses and ask them to sign a ‘good neighbor’ agreement.

Myers said flyers will be made and distributed that say, “No single serve alcohol sales before 1 p.m.” and members of the Chamber and White Center CDA will go out into the community and encourage participation.

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