Thursday, July 31, 2014

Single Bottle Sales Bans

Bans on the Sale of Single Bottles of Alcohol. To myself and like minded people this concept is close to the top of the pile when it comes to misguided responses to our assumed alcohol abuse problems. It's on the table at a lot of New Zealand city councils, including Auckland.

It begs the question, has this been tried before? Turns out it has.

1. Washington D.C. has been dabbling with a similar ban in various parts of their city for years. The benefits are far from clear. Rates of certain petty offences fell, then rose. Manufacturers quickly put drinks into two and three packs, sparking moves to ban those as well and suggesting that the law-makers in question somehow hadn't seen that coming, further questioning their grasp on reality. But as this story shows, the last laugh probably belongs to the neighbouring districts who are exempt from this particular rule.

2. Sacramento created such a ban way back in 1996 for big chunks of their city. According to this story, one of the main effects has been that the "craft beer revolution" of the last twenty years has passed these areas by. Again, there's mention of the boon created for businesses outside the affected zone.

Of course both stories are written from a fairly sceptical point of view and there may even be an alternate universe out there in which bans on single bottle sales aren't a completely daft idea. But there are some important lessons that should be unarguable:
1. The bans will invite manufacturers and retailers to adapt and get around the intent of the rules.
2. They will inevitably create economic opportunities for anyone with a way of circumventing them.

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