Decision on sales of alcohol should rest with owners

Freedom Newspapers

The recent rise in the number of Clovis restaurants selling beer and wine with meals alarms some people who see alcohol consumption of any amount as wrong. Not us.

We see the change as market driven — owners who are responding to customer requests for a glass of beer or wine, and to the growing restaurant competition where newcomers from other places offer this service as a routine course of business. Eight of Clovis’ 14 restaurants licensed to sell alcohol have obtained those licenses in the past 18 months, the Clovis News Journal reported Tuesday, or more than double the restaurant choices back in 2003.

Jim Gammon, minister at the Clovis Church of Christ at 16th and Pile, is among those worried by the trend. In a written response to a reporter’s questions, Gammon said: “The arrival of additional liquor licenses should concern every Clovis citizen. When businesses claim they need liquor to compete, then it forces us to ask what kind of character defect wants to survive by preying on the weaknesses of others.”

That’s an extreme view to take, although Pastor Gammon certainly is not alone in that view. But just because some people are weak when it comes to moderating their own liquor consumption doesn’t mean those who choose to sell alcohol are vultures, as the word “preying” implies. This is tortured logic, at best, and certainly an unfair characterization of anyone who sells alcoholic beverages.

The majority of businesses here chose to sell only beer and wine, not hard liquor too. They, and those who also sell hard liquor, know that profit from any alcohol sales — as with anything else — will be short-lived if not achieved responsibly and within legal parameters. If they don’t act responsibly, customers are sure to respond negatively. Few people want to frequent a business with a shady reputation.
Most of the time, we believe business owners whose establishments sell alcohol take great care to avoid problems, such as selling alcohol to minors or serving excessive amounts to individuals. Many of them are equally concerned about people who drive under the influence of alcohol, and do what they can to prevent such incidents, such as providing taxi rides or getting others to drive those customers home.

Government is forever sticking its nose into alcohol issues, from the days of Prohibition to the current practice of close scrutiny and exorbitant fees related to licensing.

Private citizens should voice their opinions on controversial matters because healthy debate will help business owners make good decisions.

But they should also remember the decision to sell alcohol — or cigarettes, guns or any other legal product — should ultimately rest with the business owner.

Yes, some distributors of alcohol and other legal products are not always responsible and make decisions that negatively impact the lives of innocent people. It is part of the price that comes with free choice. However, just because freedom to choose what we drink sometimes comes at a high price does not mean we should all shake our heads and say: “You decide for me.”

Whether you drink or not, forcing the morals and standards for living of some on the community as a whole is not what America is about. The decision to sell alcohol or ice tea with someone’s chicken-fried steak or roast beef must lie with the restaurant owner, not popular opinion and certainly not with government, whose only role should be to fairly enforce public safety laws.