Alcohol outlet density refers to the number and concentration of alcohol retailers (such as bars, restaurants, liquor stores) in an area.
Regulating the number of places in a given area where alcohol may be legally sold (outlet density) is an effective way to prevent excessive alcohol use, according to a Guide to Community Preventive Services (Community Guide).
Excessive alcohol consumption, which includes both binge drinking and heavy average daily alcohol consumption, is the third-leading cause of preventable death in the United States. According to the review, sufficient evidence exists of a positive link between outlet density and excessive alcohol use and related harms.
Community Guide Recommendations
On the basis of this evidence, the Task Force concludes that limiting on- and off-premises alcoholic beverage outlet density— either by reducing current density levels or limiting density growth— can be an effective means of reducing the harms associated with excessive alcohol consumption. It may also provide additional benefits for quality of life by reducing community problems such as loitering, public disturbances, and vandalism.
“…There is sufficient evidence of a positive association between outlet density and excessive alcohol consumption and related harms to recommend limiting alcohol outlet density through the use of regulatory authority (e.g., licensing and zoning) as a means of reducing or controlling excessive alcohol consumption and related harms.”
-The Task Forces on Community Preventative Services
7 Factors Affecting
Outlet Size/ Volume
The physical size of a retail premise or the volume of its sales.
Placing alcohol outlets close to “sensitive land uses” including parks, places of worship, schools, and other locations where young people are may pose significant risks.
Size of Community
The physical size of a community may affect the total number of alcohol outlets and their proximity to one another.
Some alcohol outlets serve as magnets for crime and violence.
Geographic areas with numerous alcohol outlets located in close proximity to one another may pose greater community risks than having outlets more geographically dispersed.
The specific characteristics of the communities where alcohol outlets are located can influence the risk of excessive alcohol consumption and related harms.
Number/ Type of Outlets
There is an array of alcohol outlet types and they may pose differing levels of risk. For example, many cities treat small restaurants without stand-alone bars differently from those with full service bars.