To the editor,

At a recent North Branch City Council meeting (5/11), an agenda item highlighted the success of North Branch’s two Municipal Liquor Stores over the past year, citing revenue increases and other material improvements. By itself, that is not a problem and clearly helps the city in a financial sense. However, rather than a report of raw data, comments were made that seemed like a “tip of the hat” to citizens for their part in the increase. A sense of  “civic duty” if you will, in the name of not increasing the levy. Thanks were extended by the mayor, and the sales increases regarded as an overall positive thing.

Instead of “support the war effort and buy more war bonds” in 1917, it’s now “support the city and buy more alcohol” in 2021. Regardless of the fact that Covid-related closures of bars and restaurants in 2020 likely affected the numbers, such comments still leave an impression. (Quarter 1 of 2021 also showed an increase). 

What happens when we promote the sale of the substance in such a manner? The already-fragile concept of “moderation” erodes when such language is used as it was at the May 11 meeting. Lest we forget, alcohol continues to be one of our biggest societal ailments contributing to domestic abuse, assault, driving accidents and deaths, disease, depression, and chemical dependency. Studies from the American Medical Association’s psychiatry journal (JAMA) indicate that roughly 1 in 8 Americans suffer from alcoholism, and that number can extend to the city’s roughly 7,500 adult residents.

I myself am no teetotaler, and North Branch’s early history as a dry village (starting in 1888 under temperance mayor J.A. Rystrom) would admittedly seem draconian in 21st century terms. Most local folks that enjoy a beer or glass of wine do drink responsibly. Let’s, however, not treat the rise of alcohol sales in North Branch as some kind of civic success story.  

Kyle L. Johnson

North Branch

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