Tuesday, September 12

Support Effort to Eliminate Single Beer Can Sales in Great Falls

The lower North or South sides of town have problems with both vagrancy and public drunkenness. In addition to harassment, random vandalism, petty thievery, physical assaults, this vagrancy consumes a great deal of our police officer's time and attention.

I submit to you that we can find more creative ways to combat this problem than committing our police officers to locking away drunks and fining the destitute. One such solution is eliminating single can beer sales.

There are a number of obvious problems that are created by single can beer sales. These include;

  • Public drunkenness. Single can beer sales are simply designed to allow someone to crack the top of the can as soon as they walk out of the store.
  • Promotion of panhandle. A single can of beer has a small enough cost that a person can panhandle for a very short time and raise the dollar or so that the M&H, Albertson's or the Loaf and Jug charge for a can.
  • Ease of evading police. A single can of beer can easily be hidden in a coat or shirt if the police drive by. A six-pack is much harder to hide.

I know, I know. This may seem like a flagrant over-reach by the city against our rights. However, I suggest to you that this is not the case.

Open containers are not legal in vehicles in the State of Montana, or on the streets of Great Falls. Why, then, can an individual purchase a single can of beer at a convenience store? To me, it seems that selling a single can is just an inducement toward violating a city ordinance or State law.

However you view it, opening and drinking a container of alcohol outside in the city (or worse, in your vehicle) is illegal.

We can easily stop it. An ordinance is pending before the city commission that will outlaw single can beer sales in Great Falls. This ordinance will also;

  • Require alcohol to be locked up between the hours of 2 a.m. - 6 a.m. (when it is illegal to sell it anyway); and
  • Outlaw floor displays of alcohol within a certain distance from the entrance to an establishment.

This ordinance is worthy of your attention. I also submit that it is worthy of your support.


WolfPack said...

I would prefer to just lock up the problem. What good are the panhandlers to us walking the streets? Could we also stop vagrants from smoking by eliminating single pack sales?

david said...

I'm about as anti-alcohol as anyone you'll ever meet...but I don't like the sound of this effort.

GeeGuy said...

I'm sorry, TSJ, but you (and, apparently, the City) are wrong on this one. It is a "flagrant over-reach by the city."

I have purchased single cans before. And I don't drink them in my car or in the street. In fact, if you want to have just a couple beers some evening, there are places where it is cheaper (per can) to buy singles than a six pack.

Government needs to quit telling everyone what they can and can't do just because some people abuse it. Do you really think this ordinance will have an effect on our local winos?

Yeah, and the sign code has made 10th Avenue South beautiful.

Treasure State Jew said...

First, let me say this; I am not anti-alcohol (personally, I am anti-cheap, crappy alcohol. However that is the subject of another post).

What I am against is vagrancy and petty crime in our urban areas. Walk by the M&H or the downtown Loaf and Jug any evening around 8-9 p.m. You will see homeless drunks panhandling so that they can go in and buy another can of beer.

After they get tanked up, they wander around the downtown. As a result, we get petty vandalism, thievery and assault.

Spend some time downtown and talk to the cops patrolling the area. They will tell you that they spend most of their evening chasing down a few vagrants that cause most of the problem when they are drunk.

Stopping single can beer sales would allow these officers to spend more time on more significant crimes.

Geeguy, you bring up a good point about the price point. That is a problem with this effort. The other problem I see is forcing alcohol to be locked up from 2 a.m - 6 a.m. That will cause a few stores to spend a great deal of money to comply with the ordinance. However, I think that the ordinance can be structured to accomodate those concerns.

And yes. I do think that pricing alcohol out of the reach of our local winos will reduce their access to it. For those of use that live, work and play downtown, I submit that is a good thing.

ZenPanda said...

"fining the destitute"?
Isn't it less than helpful to fine someone who has no money? How will that help the problem? Wouldn't that cause more theft and robberies?

Treasure State Jew said...


I agree completely. However, the police now have no choice but to follow the law when they witness an individual with an open container.

Banning these single can sales would go a large way toward stopping these ridiculous fines.

GeeGuy said...

Not to be too sarcastic, but I have to hand it to TSJ and the City of Great Falls. Imagine, one simple ordinance restricting the free exchange of goods in a capitalist society and they are going to stop alcoholism, panhandling, and vagrancy. Why didn't I think of this???!!??

Yeah, right...

GeeGuy said...

Seriously, you think stopping single sales will do a damn thing? Even drunken vagrants might be smart enough to pool their money, don't you think?

Or how 'bout this. Force them to panhandle all day and then they can slam six at a time, instead of one...

Bad, silly, overreaching idea.

a-fire-fly said...

Is this just single beer cans or are you including 40 oz bottles, and things like Sparks, Boones Farm, etc? Are you targeting just convience stores, or will this include every business that sells any type of alcohol?

"I do think that pricing alcohol out of the reach of our local winos will reduce their access to it." I am totally speechless by that comment.

I think you people are way out of line on this one.

Anonymous said...

Dear Sir: Go ahead and recommend to the City Commission to pass an ordinance outlawing the sales of single cans of beer; but then if social problems get worse rather than better for the police and our neighbors, then please recommend after the sad fact that the wonderful new ordinace be repealed ASAP. Now if the store managers on Central avenue that now OK the sale of single cans of beer were really interested in helping to solve social problems that affect us all, they would voluntarily stop selling single cans of beer without a new law that would force them to. And finally, I'd rather see a poor motorist buy a single can of beer and drive away from say Albertson's than with a government approved six-pack. An intoxicated motorist is far more dangerous to society than a pesty, intoxicated panhandler who might pee in the alley. Thank you for your time. Anonymous in Great Falls

MarkSouthFL said...

>>A single can of beer can easily be hidden in a coat or shirt if the police drive by. A six-pack is much harder to hide.<<

Yeah, this makes sense. It's not like you could actually separate the cans or anything, right?

BTW, if you outlaw single can/bottle purchases, does that mean bars can only sell pitchers? I see a backfire effect here....

SallyT said...

So you're saying that creating a new criminal act will prevent three other criminal acts?

You know, when my dad was City judge, he had to deal with a chronic paint-sniffer who was so far gone that he rarely made it more than a few blocks from the county jail before getting hold of more paint, and inevitably being discovered in a convulsive stupor, behind bushes or in a business's doorway. The law had no allowance for sending the guy to an institution, and, I believe, Dad couldn't give him more than 10 days in jail. Too bad noone thought of banning single-can spray paint sales. Now that coulda cured him...
(yes, that's sarcasm)

If the community isn't willing to enforce vagrancy or panhandling laws, the situation will not be rectified, or even get better with new laws. The notion that inconveniencing and holding the law-abiding responsible for society's rejects will somehow improve the community is a bit of stretch.

Oh, and L’Shannah Tovah to you!