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Ward 4 singles out ‘tall boys’ in beer ban
A woman sat on the rim of a garbage can in front of a liquor store near Georgia Avenue NW recently and begged for handouts as she sipped on a can of Bud Light — perhaps her last “tall boy” before a new D.C. law bans the sale of single cans or bottles of beer in Ward 4 for the next four years.
“If we can’t buy single beers, it’s going to [hurt] us,” said the 47-year-old woman, who called herself Hope. “Can we buy a six-pack for $6 when we ain’t got but a dollar?”
The law took effect Sept. 29, but merchants have until Nov. 14 to sell off their stock of 24-ounce cans known as “tall boys” and 40-ounce bottles known as “40s.” After that, no individual beer container of less than 70 ounces will be sold in Ward 4.
The ban will force customers to purchase six-packs because brewers do not package beer for individual sale in containers larger than 70 ounces.
Hope and other poor residents in the area say the law discriminates against them, adding to the gentrification that is steadily pushing them out of the city. But homeowners and shopkeepers say keeping beer out of the hands of such people will reduce public drunkenness and loitering, and clean up sidewalks.
Ernie Jarvis, 42, a commercial real estate broker who has lived in Ward 4 all his life, said 40s are “poison to this community.”
“I think [the ban] is a wonderful law, and I think it is going to have a positive impact on the community and should spread throughout the city,” Mr. Jarvis said.
However, the owners of Ward 4’s mom-and-pop convenience stores — which sell the bulk of single beers — expect the ban will hurt their bottom line.
“I’m not feeling good because our sales are 40 [percent] to 50 percent single beers,” said Teshome Chekole, 42, owner of Town & Country Market on Upshur Street NW.
He said his customers live in the neighborhood and take their beer home, even if they opt to buy five 24-ounce cans of Budweiser for 99 cents each instead of a six-pack of 12-ounce bottles for $5.30. Now, he said, they will walk a couple of blocks to the next ward, where single beers will still be for sale.
D.C. Council member Adrian M. Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat and sponsor of the four-year ban, said it rightly targets alcohol packaged for immediate consumption on sidewalks and in alleys.
“I don’t think there is anything good that comes out of public drunkenness,” Mr. Fenty said. “There is disorderly conduct, public urination, drinking and driving, and you can imagine other problems associated with being drunk in public.”
Other wards are studying Ward 4’s experiment. Leaders of the advisory neighborhood commission in Ward 6 on Capitol Hill, for example, are considering banning the sales of singles on specific streets in Northeast.
Mr. Fenty cites Mount Pleasant, in Ward 1, as an example of how a ban on single-beer sales can turn around a neighborhood without hamstringing mom-and-pop shops. The Mount Pleasant ban applies only to that community and not to the entire ward.
Community leaders in Mount Pleasant worked for years to do away with the sale of individual beers, protesting the renewal of liquor licenses in the area until every liquor store and mom-and-pop shop agreed to a ban. That was four years ago.
By Donald Lambro
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