National institute backs fight to curb liquor stores, billboards


On a littered street corner in Park Heights, community leaders and representatives of a national institute plotted yesterday to take on the liquor industry that they believe is targeting Baltimore's young and poor.

Members of the Marin Institute for the Prevention of Alcohol and Other Drug Problems and Baltimore's City Wide Liquor Coalition for Better Laws and Regulations toured two blighted areas and talked about revitalizing them by reducing the number of liquor stores and billboards for alcoholic beverages.

Makani Themba, associate director for media and policy, said the Baltimore coalition, which has been pushing for a ban on almost all alcohol and tobacco billboards, was selected by her San Rafael, Calif., institute to participate in an initiative to fight drug and alcohol abuse in inner-city neighborhoods. Six other organizations in cities across the nation will receive training under a three-year, $500,000 grant.

In the past two years, the local group has pressured the city to crack down on illegal billboards and to close package-goods stores on Sundays. Now, it is spearheading the effort to regulate the content of billboard advertising.

"I think the nation has a lot to learn from Baltimore," Ms. Themba said.

Yesterday's tour began on Fulton Avenue in Penn North, where the local coalition wants to create new business opportunities. Associated Black Charities gave the group a $20,000 grant for a survey to determine what retail businesses residents need.

Marin Institute members later met with Park Heights residents working to rejuvenate their neighborhood. They stopped at a liquor store on Park Heights Avenue where men drinking from paper bags once loitered. The coalition stopped that by getting a law passed that forces such stores to close on Sundays.

"Sunday returned to people going to church again in peace and quiet," said resident Jean Yarborough.

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