On March 16, the Coalition to Prevent Alcohol Related Harms in LA Metro (CoPalm) hosted a community forum, “East Hollywood in Action: Not One More Liquor Store” at Los Angeles City College. Over 60 people attended the event, which addressed the overconcentration of alcohol retailers in Los Angeles.

Communities with a high number of liquor stores and bars, often in low-income and immigrant communities, are 9 to 10 times more likely to have higher rates of violent crime. CoPalm’s goal is to present an ordinance to cap and reduce alcohol outlets throughout Los Angeles.

“This forum was important because it was an opportunity for community members to learn about how they can get involved in matters related to urban planning and city policy,” said Vince Leus, KYCC Prevention Education Community organizaer. “It is clear that there is a pressing need in East Hollywood for a moratorium on the proliferation of alcohol retailers.”

East Hollywood has the highest off-sale liquor license rate of “greater than 10.57 per 10,000 residents,” according to a 2012 City of Los Angeles Department of City Planning map.

Alcohol-outlet density also shows relationships with public safety nuisance activities, underage drinking and domestic violence. The community forum mobilized community voices to advocate for policy change to address this issue.

Vanessa Alvarado, Deputy City Attorney at the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, led a training on the dos and don’ts of neighborhood complaints. “Don’t give up on this moratorium even if more liquor stores open,” Alvarado insisted.

Chanchanit “Chancee” Martorell, Executive Director of the Thai Community Development Center (Thai CDC) explained the planning process—in particular, public hearings and community impact statements—as a way for the community to get involved.

One youth, Patricia Colin, 14, who participated in the forum said that neighborhoods where youth are already struggling with life, school, gangs and substance abuse are also the ones with the highest number of liquor stores. “Why would you let that happen?” she asked attendees of the forum.

CoPalm started in 2013, when a group of prevention organizations mobilized to reduce harms around alcohol use, especially among youth. In 2015, the coalition (funded by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, Substance Abuse and Prevention and Control division) chose to focus specifically on alcohol-outlet density, after realizing how pervasive this problem is and how it impacts all of the communities (Downtown, Boyle Heights, Hollywood, Northeast, Koreatown, Pico Union, and Westlake) that they serve.

KYCC is the lead organization for the coalition. The coalition also includes: Behavioral Health Services; Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, Prevention and Treatment Services; Institute for Public Strategies, West Hollywood Project; Jewish Family Services; Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, Community Health Services-Metro L.A.; and Social Model Recovery, United Coalition East (UCEPP).

The next community forum, “Boyle Heights in Action: Not One More Liquor Store” will take place on Thursday, April 21 at the Resurrection Church (3324 Opal Street, Los Angeles, CA 90023).