Using Zoning as a Public Health Tool to Reduce Alcohol Outlet Oversaturation, Promote Compliance, and Guide Future Enforcement: a Preliminary Analysis of Transform Baltimore

C. Debra M. Furr-Holden, Adam J. Milam, Elizabeth D. Nesoff, Sabriya Linton, Beth Reboussin, Richard C. Sadler, Philip J. Leaf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Alcohol outlet oversaturation often exacerbates negative public health outcomes. Recently, Baltimore City passed an extensive zoning rewrite (“TransForm Baltimore”) that sought to give local government and residents a tool to reduce alcohol outlet oversaturation through land use regulation. The present investigation evaluated the outlet and neighborhood characteristics of stores impacted by two components of TransForm Baltimore: (1) a requirement that taverns licensed for on-premise consumption in addition to off-premise, carryout sales generate at least 50% of their business from on-premise sales, and (2) a requirement to close, repurpose, or relocate all package stores (i.e., off-premise alcohol outlets) that have been operating as “non-conforming” in residential zones since 1971. Research assistants visited every off-premise alcohol outlet in the city (n = 685) to complete an observational assessment. Approximately 77% (n = 530) of these off-premise alcohol outlets were open, including 292 taverns and 238 package stores. t tests and chi-square tests were used to compare neighborhood characteristics (neighborhood disadvantage, median household income, and racial segregation) of sham taverns (i.e., taverns with less than 50% space dedicated for on-premise sales that were primarily operating as a package store) and non-conforming package stores. Of the 292 taverns accessible during the study, the remainder were chronically closed (n = 130); 24 (8.2%) were deemed sham taverns. Sham taverns were more likely to be located in communities with more economic disadvantage and lower median household income (t test; p < 0.05). Compared to taverns, a lower proportion of sham taverns had visible dance floor space, patrons drinking, and menus available (chi-square test; p < 0.001). There were 80 residentially zoned, non-conforming alcohol outlets. These non-conforming alcohol outlets were disproportionately distributed in predominately poor and African American communities (t test; p < 0.05). As compared to conforming alcohol outlets, more non-conforming alcohol outlets sold sex paraphernalia and healthy foods (chi-square test; p < 0.05). With active enforcement, TransForm Baltimore offers the opportunity for local government and residents to improve public health and increase health equity in vulnerable and marginalized neighborhoods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)568-582
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Urban Health
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020


  • Alcohol outlets
  • Environmental justice
  • Liquor stores
  • Zoning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Urban Studies
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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