Mixed drink to go ordinance raises DUI risks in Peachtree City

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I was reading the details of the new ordinance proposed at the October 6th, 2022 council meeting entitled Ordinance #1201 — Alcohol Amendment — Mixed Drink to go/Corkage.

It is my understanding that the vote was postponed to allow council to review the proposed changes in greater detail and would resurface for a vote on October 20th.

I am concerned about the “mixed drinks to go” portion of the ordinance, which effectively allows one to drink at an establishment and order “to go” drinks as he heads out the door. I respectfully ask you to remove that portion of the ordinance or alternatively vote against it.

There are plenty of free-pour restaurants that serve drinks while one dines and several bars that folks can belly up to and drink alcohol whether they are eating or not. If these folks want to continue the party after their restaurant or bar visits, we have multiple liquor stores in town where they can stock up the bar and drink when they get home.

I pass no judgment on those who drink alcohol regardless of quantity; that is a personal choice. But driving a vehicle while intoxicated puts us all in harm’s way.

I am not in favor of the city enacting a law that creates unnecessary temptation and an easy path to do so — especially without some formidable benefit to the community that trumps the inherent and negative consequences this ordinance represents.

According to the ordinance as proposed, each “to go” drink can contain up to three ounces of liquor. Since one can buy two drinks for the road that is a total of six ounces.

Even if the individual hasn’t had anything to drink before, consuming these two drinks prior to or during his drive will put him over the legal limit.

For every 1.5 ounce of liquor that one consumes (or one 12 ounce beer or five ounces of wine) the BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) rises .02. If one were to drink both “to go” drinks over a time period of one hour, their BAC would be .08, and if pulled over they would qualify for a DUI. In other words, according to the law they would be too drunk to drive.

Selling mixed drinks “to go” to someone with keys in hand as they leave an establishment where they have already been drinking is irresponsible.

We have had at least three fatalities in Peachtree City this year directly due to drinking and driving. One of the drivers who caused a death hanged himself in jail: that’s four deaths. Go ask the family members of one of the deceased what they think of this amendment.

A recent headline in a local newspaper referenced five DUI arrests in a ten-hour period over a weekend night and early morning, all in Peachtree City. It is a problem. Please manage new laws with common sense.

Mike LaTella

Peachtree City, Ga.

[LaTella is a Master Addiction Counselor (MAC) and the owner of LifeSwitch Addiction Counseling and of LifeSwitch Driving Academy (a DUI school).]

19 COMMENTS

  1. Prior to Covid, there were only two states in the country (Florida and Mississippi) that allowed any real application of the mixed-drink to go option. In March of 2020, as a response to the virus, restrictive legal directives were implemented limiting public interaction with most retail businesses. These new laws hit the bar and restaurant industries especially hard and “to-go” and delivery beer, wine and mixed drinks became a popular remedy to grant some relief to struggling establishments in food and beverage.

    Several influential organizations opposed these new allowances, MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) was perhaps the most prominent. These new laws weren’t being opposed due to research and data – that information didn’t exist yet. Rather the opposition was based on the common sense notion that offering patrons who were already impaired an easy way to continue drinking before and during the impending next trip behind the wheel doesn’t seem to be a move that would help efforts to reduce drinking and driving.

    As “Trail Walking” points out, even two and a half years after those new legal exceptions were implemented, the data on the impact of “to-go” alcohol drinks is thin at best. There have been noted trends on both ends of the spectrum, but nothing close to establishing solid conclusions. The main reason for that is the publishing of data regarding car accidents, fatalities and the role of alcohol and drugs in those events is notoriously slow in being released. The NHTSA (National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration) has released preliminary 2020 numbers and the noted trends during COVID are that driving overall was down but accidents with fatalities, especially those caused by alcohol and drug impairment, were up considerably. There isn’t enough history to conclude that “to go” drinks contributed to the increase; in fact some states that opted-in for the to-go drinks option had lower alcohol-related accidents.

    The reality is, we do not know yet what the impact of restaurants and bars offering to go drinks will be. The long-standing law that adult beverages must be consumed on the premise of which they were purchased isn’t a requirement of happenstance. It makes sense that this rule was made to directly reduce the rate of those who are driving while intoxicated. To roll this law back, not knowing if the action will increase the rate of injury and fatalities in our community, needs to have a pressing and important community benefit to outweigh that potential risk. I don’t see what that benefit would be.

  2. Based on a few minutes of research, the R Street policy “think tank” found no conclusive evidence that to-go cocktails increased the rate of DUI arrests.

    Given how thin the data are, I suspect it would be equally easy to find conclusions on the other side of the argument that support the central idea to this letter.

    I don’t strongly care one way or the other on this issue. I think that the number of coozies in golf carts in this city containing something other than Coke would show that to-go cocktails would ultimately be a small percentage of potentially consumed beverages on our roads and paths.

    The corkage allowance would be a “nice to have” change to our local laws, though.

    • Look at it this way if they approve the law it’s another way for them to make money. I got a DUI here in Newnan, I admit I should have not been driving and not going to put the blame somewhere else but someone called the cops from the bar I was at to turn me in and it cost me around $13k with everything I went through. Long story short it’s another way for the city/county to make money. DUI’s have become an industry for local governments!!

  3. Is it really the case that “to go” means “to carry in the car?” Seems unlikely. I’ve been spending more time on the square in Newnan, and one of our favorite things to do after dinner is to grab a drink and spend an hour just walking around the square. Drinking and driving is already against the law. It makes no sense that it’s legal to have a drink in a restaurant and in the home, but it’s illegal to have one outside.

  4. Few if any communities which have passed these laws have seen any kind of increase in DUI activities. Even when passed as business-generating revenue sources during the pandemic and “pandemic-drinking” became a domestic issue.

    Finding alcoholic beverages in PTC isn’t and hasn’t been an issue in decades; those who are going to drink and drive aren’t necessarily going to do it because they can now take their $12 cocktail home instead of drinking it before driving. In fact, in that regard this could be an even safer move. Especially considering the the only thing worse than getting a DUI is being cited for open container as well.

      • Well, the most preliminary one is actually courtesy of your new friend “Google.”

        I have seen other data when liquor/package sales were proposed in local communities; bars approved to sell liquor by the drink; marijuana decriminalization debated. Absolutism is a foolish engagement in re data but the hyperbolics about indulgences aren’t supported to the extent deeply devoted ferverants claim, especially ones whose very business models depend on the market.