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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Madison Sunshine Expands Booze Sales... to Minors?

Sometimes irony is elusive. Sometimes fate dumps it in your lap.

On Tuesday, Madison grocer Dan Roemen told KJAM that he plans to use the old Mr. Movies store to expand his liquor selection. Tonight, MDL reports Roemen's Sunshine Foods failed its alcohol compliance check last Friday. Says the Leader, "Staff at Sunshine Foods completed a sale to a minor, allowing the underage purchase of alcohol."

Also worth noting: MDL lists 17 other businesses that sell alcohol in Madison. Assuming Roemen doesn't lose his alcohol license for his store's violation this month (dream on), that's 18 places to buy alcohol in a town of 6500 people.

Oh, did I mention...

Neighborhoods that are characterized by extremely high outlet densities may experience a variety of problems resulting from the presence of the outlets themselves, only partially related to levels of consumption. There is evidence that high alcohol outlet density contributes to increased crime and violence, youth violence, homicide, and other public nuisance and illegal activities [Marin Institute, 2006].


The level of drinking, drinking participation, and participation in binge drinking are all significantly higher among all college students when a greater number of outlets licensed to sell alcoholic beverages exist near campus. This is particularly true for underage drinking. [Chaloupka, F. & Wechsler, H. “Binge drinking in college: the impact of price, availability and alcohol control policies.” Contemporary Economic Policy, vol xiv, October 1996.]


Over-concentration of alcohol outlets is part of neighborhood economic and social disintegration. The area's economic base loses its diversity and becomes less attractive to both residents and potential retail customers. The proliferation of alcohol outlets is thus both a symptom of economic decline and a factor that worsens the decline. [Maxwell, A. & Immergluck, D. “Liquorlining: liquor store concentration and community development in lower-income Cook County (IL) neighborhoods.” Chicago IL: Woodstock Institute, 1997.]

...and for the family values crowd (i.e., all of us)...

By using spatial models, PIRE researchers have examined the availability of alcohol, (most often measured as alcohol outlet density per geographic region such as census tract), as a factor related to drinking and driving, binge drinking, child abuse and neglect, accidental injuries, and violent assaults. Some findings from this research include that higher on-premise alcohol outlet density (such as bars) are associated with greater drinking and driving, child neglect, and assaults whereas, higher off-premise (such as liquor stores) alcohol outlet density are associated with higher child physical abuse, and injuries from accidents, while both types are associated with more problem drinking such as binge drinking [Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, "Alcohol: Crime and Violence," 2006].

Seems to me it's time for Madison to do something Unexpected™ and make a real stand for public safety and economic diversity: yank Sunshine Foods' liquor license. Keep the Mr. Movies space open to a difference, better kind of business.


  1. Oh dear friend. Merry Christmas and all my respect before I start.

    Where do we draw the line in community action versus personal responsibility?

    The buying and selling of alcoholic beverages is Legal in this country. Now the selling of said product to minors is not obviously and at no point will I defend the mistake made by the employee of Sunshine foods. Having taken part in "age stings" from the bartender side of things I can tell you that the person chosen to purchase alcohol is (in my two times being stung...passed both times btw) dressed to the nines and does not look like a person under 21. They are chosen because of their appearance. The checker should have carded the person regardless though.

    Now to the public side of things. The owner of Sunshine (barring zoning laws) has the right to open a liquor store. He has the right to sell legal objects in that store. He has the right to make a living doing this.

    Parents have a responsibility (IMHO) to teach children about the possibility of alcohol abuse. Parents, teachers, leaders, etc have a responsibility to teach the difference between right and wrong and to help raise law abiding citizens.

    Are we as a community here to disallow someone from making a legal dollar or are we more pressed to stand up and raise a generation of people that will act with morals and regard for one another?

    I assume (sorry) that Madison has public consumption laws. There is no reason why alcohol should be consumed on or near the premises of the new Sunshine Liquor store. It is the responsibility of the checkers at Sunshine Liquor, or ANY establishment that sells alcohol to NOT contribute to the over intoxication of a person. IE: When bartending I had to know when to cut a person off, when to summon a cab or when to call the police on an intoxicated driver or other such hooligan.
    It is not illegal to drink alcoholic beverages. It is illegal to use them in some settings or to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.
    My personal opinion is this C.H. I think that we cross a scary line when we begin to dictate what a person can and cannot do for a living. Whether a liquor store, strip club, Religious Book store, Smoke shop, beauty shop, grocery store...whatever. The sad reality of society is that some section will be offended by most anything that is done.

    The bottom line is that it all comes down to personal choices. Most people, barring sociopaths, have a conception of right and wrong. There are a set of laws in place to protect us from those that choose to ignore those laws, without the need for public outcry, reaction, picketing or harassment.

    I respect your opinion and beliefs on this subject Corey but to site research that was NOT done in Madison or Lake County is a disservice to the place you call home. I lived in Madison and spent much time there and simply don't see that suddenly there will be a crime spree because of a new liquor store. I don't think that there will be an influx of violence there or a rise in DUI's or in alcoholics. Addicts get there fix wherever Corey...this I say from experience.

    Just my side of the fence here brother. Not right or wrong...just another point of view.

    Shane Micheal Gerlach

  2. I’ve purchased alcohol at Sunshine before and I believe I’ve always been carded (unless the cashier personally knows me and knows I’ve over 21). I’m 24, I expect it. In fact, when an alcohol product is scanned, a prompt on the computer comes up to enter the customer’s date of birth. While the store does bear some responsibility, I believe the brunt of it lies on the employee (hopefully former employee). Perhaps a better solution would be to separate the liquor store from the grocery store with its own cashier like many larger stores do. Oh wait, it seems Sunshine has already taken those steps.
    I’ll continue to shop at Sunshine, despite the fact that I work in Brookings and drive by Hy-Vee daily. I don’t do it for Dan Roman, he’ll live fine without my business. I do it for the local citizens he employs.
    The end story, Dan Roman didn’t put six employees out of a job; Mr. Movies did. Mr. Roman offered Mr. Movies a lease extension; they declined. Mr. Movies could have relocated in Madison; they declined.

    Brett Kearin

  3. Brett, your continued haste to defend the entrenched power elite of Madison continues to disappoint. Roemen is responsible for a violation of the law. That violation should carry severe consequences. Liquor licenses are a hot commodity. I'll bet there are lots of people who'd be happy to get his license and follow the law to the letter.

    Shane, I agree with much of what you say. Indeed, Roemen has all the rights you enumerate. Roemen has the right to make business decisions that are not in the best interest of the community. But "rights" don't always make "right."

    I also agree that, especially in response to a selfish, profit-driven business culture, the responsibility to teach our kids right and wrong falls to us parents. Our local leaders will continue to support more alcohol licenses and sales; that's why some of us parents have to fight all the harder against the twinned ill influences of commerce and alcohol.

    I would love to find research focusing on the impacts of alcohol outlet density on Lake County specifically. Barring that, I maintain that evidence from other communities suggesting a strong connection between increased alcohol availability, increased crime and violence, and economic decline offers us a valid warning about our business and social climate.

    Personal choices are indeed paramount. But I also choose to make my personal choices known in an effort to persuade others toward similar healthy choices. Alcohol is sufficiently related to social ills that we already place restrictions on it; I maintain that we have a social obligation to enforce those restrictions and discourage the expansion of the availability and use of alcohol.

    Besides, do the leaders of Madison really want visitors to see liquor stores as Madison's marquee businesses along Highway 34 in the heart of the city? Is "Booze on Every Block" really a good community marketing strategy?

  4. Part of me likes the idea of taking the liquor section out of the general grocery section as so many other stores like HyVee and others have done recently, adding on separate liquor (wine & spirits) sections.

    There are probably two reasons. Move it away from our youngest faces and minds, and allow those who purchase alcohol regularly, a more private buying experience. I can't imagine buying a bottle of whiskey with my minister and doctor standing near me in the checkout line.

    On the other hand, I feel Dan Roemen created a very popular destination when they originally decided to build and lease to Mr. Movies. In five years, that has become one of Madison's major family entertainment sources, so there's a huge loss to our community that needs to be filled.

    Perhaps Dan will see the profit in installing a couple of RedBox DVD vending machines, which have become so popular (17,000 in use) across the US and in Sioux Falls.

  5. An improved Sunshine would draw people to Madison rather than repel them to other communities. Part of why this irritates me so much.

    People like to sing "Shop Madison" when it benefits them, but so many established businesspeople shop at Sam's Club, Menards, Walmart, etc. Go to SF on a Saturday night. Our big names are there without guilt on their faces.

    Now, if Sunshine had chosen to meet our needs and strive to be a smaller version of a HyVee, they would probably remain the only store in town. Could anyone compete with Bud's Cleanup? Good service, right price.

    But instead, they go for the quick easy money. Yes, it's their right, but it's also where my allegiance ends and if they don't listen we should should let competition decide.

  6. "private buying experience"—follwed by the private beating experience their wives and kids will get it (at least proportionately more so than communities with lower alcohol outlet density, on average, according to the research). How considerate.

    Of course, what won't be private is the big liquor sign that will replace the Mr. Movies sign and help announce to every passerby on Highway 34 how dependent our local economy is on alcohol. Can't wait.

    I do agree separating the kids from the alcohol is a good idea. Sunshine should have trained its checkers to do that a little more rigorously.

    John: couldn't agree more. Expanded liquor sales are repellent.

  7. just to be contrary to all research stated.

    The highest alcoholism rate and highest death totals due to alcohol take place in completely dry counties located on reservation land in Western South Dakota.

    Not fiction...fact.

    Just saying.

    Are we to ban all things that CAN be dangerous or MAY be harmful? Really? Pretty boring world.

    Food-gone (Over eaters)

    Coffee gone (Caffine is dangerous)

    Bicycles gone (bikers "high")

    Tennis shoes gone (Runners "high")

    Books gone (We may read about something that SOMEONE doesn't approve of)

    Pills that can save lives and make us healthy gone (Addictive)

    CH I was pretty surprised at such a backhanded comment as your broad stroke intention that the consumption of alcohol leads to wife and child beating and then covering such a snide remark with your "statistics". I personally (as a long time acquaintance and professionally (as a reader of your product) find it offensive and childish; two things I don't associate with you in any way.

    You can make your point...and you have quite forcefully. You don't approve of liquor sales (although legal) you automatically equate liquor sales with crime and immediate addiction by grabbing statistics to back you up. I am just shocked...honestly shocked that you are broad stroking this one.

    A question. Do you eat at establishments that sell liquor?

    Still love and respect you Corey

  8. stats I forgot to add to last post. Sorry.


    More than half the Reservation's adults battle addiction and disease. Alcoholism, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and malnutrition are pervasive.

    The death rate from alcohol-related problems on the Reservation is 300% higher than the remaining US population.

    The Oglala Lakota Nation has prohibited the sale and possession of alcohol on the Pine Ridge Reservation since the early 1970's.

  9. Love back at you, Shane! You know I strive mightily not to take arguments personally.

    Remember, I'm not calling for a ban here, just strict enforcement... and also perhaps an acknowledgement that Madison already has enough places to buy booze. I am curious: are there stats on the average number of alcohol outlets per capita (or per thousand residents) for South Dakota and other states? I'd be interested in comparing....

    Your point about the reservations is well taken, Shane. The number of alcohol licenses available in an area is not the sole determinant of crime and violence. If the Chinese conquered North America, killed off a majority of the white population, and herded the remainder onto dry reservations, I suspect we'd find ways to get hold of booze, too.

    Backhanded? No, it's pretty straightforward: alcohol availability and consumption have a clear relationship to crime and violence, including domestic abuse. There's a lot of hitting that happens that wouldn't happen if the hitter hadn't been drinking.

    "Statistics"—why the quote marks? The stats are quite real. Sample the lit review in journal article:

    "...23 out of 1,000 children had parents who, as a consequence of being too drunk or high, could not care for them at some point during the previous year. Child welfare workers cite parental substance misuse as one reason for a steep increase in substantiated reports of child abuse and neglect since the 1970s (Azzi-Lessing and Olsen, 1996; Curtis and McCullough, 1993). It is estimated that 50% to 80% of all child maltreatment reports involve parental substance misuse problems (Child Welfare League of America, 1990). Of all the reports where substance misuse was the presenting reason, alcohol was the primary substance misused in 64% of the cases (Department of Health and Human Services, 1993).

    Previous neighborhood studies of alcohol access have found that the number of bars in ratio to population is positively related to substantiated reports of child maltreatment (Freisthler, in press), and the number of on-premise outlets, including bars and restaurants, per population is associated with higher rates of violent crime (Gorman et al., 2001). The density of bars (per roadway miles) was found to be positively associated with rates of serious assaults (Lipton and Gruenewald, 2002; Roncek and Maier, 1991; Scribner et al., 1995), whereas greater densities of off-premise outlets were associated with rates of youth violence (Alaniz et al., 1998). States with fewer outlets per population have lower rates of severe child maltreatment (Markowitz and Grossman, 1998). Higher densities of alcohol outlets represent greater availability because they reduce the opportunity costs of obtaining alcohol and can increase the frequency of alcohol use (Gruenewald et al., 2002)."

    I wish I were just making that up.

    Now I'm sure there are lots of people—quite likely a large majority of people—who can drink a beer or a vodka and still manage not to smack anyone. Statistics don't explain or predict every individual situation, but they help us understand the big picture. More alcohol in a community that already has its share of alcohol abuse is a bad idea.

  10. And then there's that correlation with suicide I mentioned in September... and bar density stats. Madison has all the alcohol it needs and then some.

  11. According to this site

    Drug and Alcohol Statistics in South Dakota

    In the state of South Dakota it is estimated that there will be around 3,611 DUI's, and 43 deaths do to intoxicated driving this year. Statistics also show that there will be 218 deaths related to alcohol abuse, 1,122 tobacco related deaths, and 43 deaths due to illicit drug use.

    It is believed that there are around 37,733 marijuana users, 6,183 cocaine addicts, and 350 heroin addicts living in South Dakota. It is also estimated that there are 16,524 people abusing prescription drugs, 1,576 people that use inhalants, and 2,806 people who use hallucinogens.

    In South Dakota, there will be around 4,763 people arrested this year for drug related charges.

    and according to this site I'm glad I don't live in North Dakota


    When the question is asked "what state has the highest rate of alcoholism," the almost shocking answer is, "North Dakota." Unfortunately, North Dakota also leads the United States in binge drinking by individuals who are 12-years-old or older.

  12. Addiction as a whole is a problem and usually increases when the economy is in a downturn like it currently is.

    I agree that there are problems btw and that help is needed for people that truly want it.

    But I don't think the oppression of rights is the way to get to it.

    That's just my last two cents on this.

    Merry Christmas


  13. Shane, I think you might be jumping to a conclusion about oppression of rights. What in this discussion leads you to think that's what is being suggested?


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