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City government reporter

Jourdan Vian is a reporter and columnist covering local government and city issues for the La Crosse Tribune. You can contact her at 608-791-8218.

The phrase “drive-up alcohol sales” makes my skin crawl.

It conjures the image of someone half in the bag already pulling up on the curb and slurring, “I’ll have another bottle, thanks,” while throwing some cash out the window.

This could be because I have spent my fair share of time around drunk people, and I have also seen Wisconsin drunken-driving statistics. I know plenty of people around here see no issue with drinking and driving and prefer as few steps as possible between them and getting more alcohol.

That’s why a proposed ordinance that’s going to the La Crosse Common Council next month caught my eye.

The council will weigh in on the creation an ordinance that prohibits drive-up sales of alcohol, defined as “the sale of intoxicating beverages to customers in a vehicle.”

I have to be honest. My first reaction was shock that we didn’t already have this ordinance. I’ve seen drive-through liquor stores elsewhere, and we in Wisconsin are world-class drinkers. Last I checked, La Crosse is in the top 10 for drunkest cities, and the state as a whole is known for binge-drinking to the point where half the department stores in town sell shirts that say “Drink Wisconsinbly.”

I figured if drive-through booze buying was legal, we’d be doing it all the time.

But it turns out, we just didn’t do it.

However, the increase in drive-up grocery shopping has raised some concerns that we could start, said council member Andrea Richmond, who is sponsoring the legislation. Richmond said it was worth the discussion, especially as they look into whether it would make it easier to buy alcohol underage.

“I don’t see any real pluses there,” she said.

Stores like Target and Festival Foods let you order your shopping list online, then drive to the store to pick it up on the curb without getting out of your car. You pay through the internet and you show them your ID to get your stuff.

People say it’s convenient, but I don’t get the appeal, to be honest. I’m not huge into grocery shopping, but I’m awful at making lists. I write them out and then when I go through the store, I spot things that I forgot to put down that I definitely need.

For example, my boyfriend Mitch loves oatmeal and granola bars. I do not, so I constantly forget to put them on the list. Then I walk down the cereal aisle and the colorful boxes jump out to remind me that I really ought to buy Mitch breakfast, too.

I’m also not sure how it helps grocery stores, since it would seriously cut down on impulse buys. No more walking through the store, seeing a pack of Oreos and snagging it at the last minute. You always spend more money when you’re hungry and there are snacks just calling your name as you walk by. You would no longer be walking by, so wouldn’t you be spending less money?

Plus, I don’t know about you guys, but I’m not great at checking the ad before I do my shopping, so I always end up picking up things like pasta and coffee – which I definitely always am in danger of running out of — while it’s on sale, even if I’m not quite out yet.

But back to the point.

When you put it in the context of just regular grocery shopping, picking up alcohol is pretty normal. I enjoy an adult beverage or two, and I don’t generally make a special trip to the liquor store. Why wouldn’t I pick up wine with my grocery shopping?

As my fellow reporter asked, is there really much of a difference between buying a bottle of booze online and picking it up at the curb, and buying a bottle of booze in the store and driving it home?

You still need a valid photo ID to buy it, wouldn’t you?

It comes down to convenience, I suppose. Do we want to give people the chance to buy alcohol with fewer steps? The council will talk about it in April.

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Jourdan Vian can be reached at jvian@lacrossetribune.com or follow her on Twitter at @Jourdan_LCT.

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