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Our View: Time for analysis in liquor license talks
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It seems as if every six months or so, Monroe city government has another discussion about whether to allow more alcohol sales.

The latest debate occurred during Monday's City of Monroe Finance and Taxation Committee meeting. The Monroe City Council committee voted 2-1 to recommend an increase in the city's liquor license quotas. The council will have the final say on an ordinance amendment that essentially would accommodate Walmart's request to be able to sell beer and wine at its new Supercenter scheduled to open later this year.

The debate was more of the same. Supporters of more liquor licenses say having them will provide the city with an economic development tool.

"We're limiting ourselves in economic (development) by limiting places," recently elected council President Dan Henke said Monday.

Opponents of increased licenses say they only will encourage more alcohol consumption in the city.

"I still can't see increasing the opportunity to buy alcohol," said Alderman Charles Koch, who cast the lone dissenting vote on the committee. Koch has been a consistent opponent on the council to additional liquor licenses.

Liquor licenses have won out in past debates. In 2007, the city created new licenses to allow restaurants to sell beer and wine only. The new licenses were requested by the Monroe Main Street board to be an additional economic development tool. Last year, the council allowed Cheese Days patrons to carry beer in plastic cups outside of bars and beer gardens.

And last June, the Judiciary and Ordinance Review Committee recommended six new Class A packaged liquor licenses - which the Finance and Taxation Committee approved Monday and the council soon will be considering.

Generally, we believe the City Council has made the right calls by increasing commercial opportunities. Unfortunately, the recurring liquor license debates have not included those facts and figures.

Ideally, the current debate would include a study of previous decisions' impact on economic development. Has increasing liquor licenses created economic development opportunities, as is the state goal? If so, how? Has there been an increase in alcohol-related arrests since the number of places that sell alcohol has increased? Has increasing the availability of alcohol in Monroe impacted consumption and purchases?

It would be nice if the next debate about liquor licenses relied upon study and analysis rather than on unproven theories and emotions. That kind of change, of course, is up to the city government to facilitate.