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  Mailman School
  of Public Health
  Columbia University
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  New York, NY 10032

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Alcohol Outlet Density
Environmental and Policy Change: Alcohol

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> Regulatory Strategies for Preventing Youth Access to Alcohol: Best Practices

> Case Histories in Alcohol Policy

> Prevention Enhancement Protocols Systems (PEPS)

Reducing alcohol outlet density in communities is an environmental alcohol policy strategy.  Alcohol outlet density refers to the number of on-sale (bars, restaurants, etc.) and off-sale (liquor stores, convenience stores, etc.) outlets located in defined geographical proximity to one another. Within the last 10 years, research has demonstrated increasingly that the density of alcohol outlets can be causally related to rates of crime and violence and other types of alcohol-related problems. This theory maintains that increases in alcohol availability contribute to increases in alcohol consumption, which contribute to increased alcohol-related problems. Therefore, modifying the density of alcohol outlets may reduce alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems.

The spatial relationships of alcohol outlet density may be viewed in terms of:
  • geographical density—the number of outlets in a specific land area such as a census tract, etc.;
  • economic density—the number of outlets as a percentage of other commercial settings in a geographical area; or
  • population density—the number of outlets in relation to the population of a specific geographic area.

Local communities have achieved reductions in outlet density through a variety of innovative mechanisms.  Two of the most common are:

  • Passage of local land use ordinances that place conditions on the location of new outlets in a city.  These ordinances are called Conditional Use Permits, and communities across the country have found them to be a very useful tool in controlling the proliferation of new alcohol outlets.
  • Outlet moratoriums. Communities that have found that the number of alcohol outlets in specific areas is causing problems have prevented new outlets from opening by adopting an outlet moratorium.


Reducing alcohol outlet density has been shown to affect the availability of alcohol in ways that can lead to decreases in alcohol consumption and reductions in violent behavior.

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Tried this strategy in your community? Be the first to share your story!


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> The risk of assaultive violence and alcohol availability in Los Angeles County

> Access to alcohol: geography and prevention for local communities

> Alcohol outlet density and motor vehicle crashes in Los Angeles County cities

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Featured Strategies
> Responsible Beverage Service

> Raising Alcohol Taxes

> Communities Mobilizing for Change on Alcohol

> Changing the Hours and Days of Sale of Alcohol

> Preventing Alcohol Availability to Underage Youth


copyright 2008 Free To Grow
Free To Grow is a national program supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation with direction and technical assistance provided by the Mailman School of Public Health of Columbia University.