Protecting recovering substance abusers is rational

Commission was well within the law, and reason, to deny this license

As it turns out, Maxwell House wanted to sell more than coffee.

 

A convenience store opening in the federally subsidized apartment house at 10th and Greene downtown applied for a license to sell beer and wine — but the application was denied Tuesday by the Augusta Commission on an 8-2 vote.

The reason, as reported by The Chronicle’s Susan McCord: “an area behavioral health program (has) about 50 clients who live at the complex and are enrolled in mental health and substance abuse programs.”

Rogue Commissioner Marion Williams, who voted against the denial, told the store owner he was getting a raw deal — and essentially invited him to sue the city.

On behalf of taxpayers everywhere: Thanks a lot, commissioner!

In truth, one knowledgeable lawyer we consulted said that when it comes to alcohol licensing, local governments “are granted much discretion and leeway. If any rational basis (exists) for denial, it would be upheld.”

Just as importantly, a substance abuse recovery specialist we contacted — Karen Saltzman, executive director of Augusta’s Hope House Inc. — confirmed our, and perhaps your, obvious suspicions: having a beer and wine retailer inside a facility housing substance abuse recoverers is a horrid idea.

“Having watched untreated substance-use disorders destroy families,” she told us, “I cannot in clear conscience think it is a good idea to have alcohol sales within the confines of a property that houses many people with these disorders.”

Saltzman added that allowing microbreweries downtown, as is being contemplated by the city, is an altogether different animal. “The tenants who struggle with this disease can avoid going past that type of business but cannot use this same precaution if the sales are in their building.

“Placing this store in a building that serves mainly people with mental health challenges and substance use disorders seems to me to be counterintuitive to the supportive housing model.”

That sure sounds like the rational basis the lawyer ordered up.

 

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