Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Your neighborhood dollar store wants to sell you booze

OK, technically beer and wine aren't booze, but many a moment of havoc has been carried out in their name.

So it's always interesting when I ask classes what they think make up the biggest share of alcohol purveyors (I'm careful not to say liquor) just by sheet numbers: Bars, restaurants, clubs, liquor stores, supermarkets ...?

Invariably, it's bars or liquor stores that come to the front.

But take a year's worth of permit applications, as I did, from the paper's legal ads and you'll find it's convenience stores (in blue on this map)* that overwhelmingly hold the permits, most for beer and wine for off-premises consumption.

That's brought concerns from some neighborhoods who see their areas being overrun.

Now, a new entry is crowding the field -- your local dollar store.

As I was wrapping up that track-the-permits project, I noticed a steady stream of permit applications from Dolgencorp, the operating arm of Dollar General.

Now, in recent editions of my local paper, I see Family Dollar seeking beer and wine applications for 15 of its Columbia-area stores.

This is a good little story worth noting. And doing depth/enterprise reporting projects like this -- especially on a beat -- isn't hard with modern tools like Google Fusion Tables (and maps) if you just take them a day or week at a time and methodically compile the data. The resulting maps or other graphical presentations yo can produce may give you a whole new take on the data.

And much of that raw material already is in your paper or in the documents you routinely pick up on a beat.

*Green is grocery and other stores, like dollar stores. Red is bars and clubs, yellow is liquor stores and orange is restaurants. White is for things like stadiums, banquet halls, etc.

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