Minor Overreaction

City Affairs: Walgreens should be careful to avoid the purchase of alcohol by minors, but should not be denied a liquor license.

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On Aug. 4, the Berkeley Unified School District Board of Education unanimously approved a resolution to oppose a Downtown Berkeley Walgreens' request for a liquor license. The opposition is based on the fact that the store, located at Shattuck Avenue and Allston Way, is within 1,000 feet of Berkeley High School.

Board memebers have said they wish to see the store barred from obtaining the license or at least have restrictions on when alcohol could be sold to prevent students from obtaining it during lunch hour and before and after school.

A study by the district's Joint Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Task Force presented less than three months ago found that Berkeley High School students get drunk and high at twice the national rate.

However, we do not feel this should necessarily be reason to bar Walgreens from selling liquor.

Students are evidently already finding ways to illegally obtain alcohol, and the addition of one more liquor-vending storefront seems unlikely to make much of a difference.

E-Z Stop Deli, located just a block south of Walgreens and two blocks from Berkeley High School, already has a liquor license. In addition, the Trader Joe's just a few blocks north of Berkeley High School campus sells alcohol.

Walgreens should impose the same restrictions on its sales as E-Z Stop Deli has - not selling immediately before and after school or during lunch hour - and be vigilant in checking IDs to prevent minors from obtaining alcohol. But if the store and its employees see it as a good business move to begin selling liquor and are willing to take on these responsibilities, they should be allowed to do so.

At some point responsibility must be placed on parents to discourage their children from drinking and preventing access to alcohol, rather than on businesses to keep teenagers from engaging in activity that is already against the law.

There is only so much that local businesses should be expected to do to keep alcohol out of the hands of high school students.

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