Limit Location and Density of Alcoholic Beverage Outlets


Local licensing or zoning ordinances can limit the location and density (i.e., number within a geographic area) of outlets within a community where alcohol can be legally sold for the buyer to drink on-premise (e.g., bars, restaurants) or off-premise (e.g., liquor stores).


To reduce the commercial availability of alcohol to underage youth

Typical Elements

  • Individuals/organizations with the expertise needed to evaluate current locations and densities of alcohol beverage outlets. Their strategies can include:
    • Assessing the distribution of on-premise and off-premise alcohol outlets in the community by surveying and plotting outlet locations on a map or using GIS mapping software (Imm et al., 2007; Sparks, Jernigan, & Mosher, 2011).
    • Examining the relationship between type of outlet (e.g., bar, restaurant, liquor store) and alcohol-related incidents in the community (Sparks et al., 2011).
      • Note: Research suggests that different outlet densities are associated with different outcomes. For example, higher restaurant density can be associated with higher drinking and driving rates and higher bar density can be associated with increased violence (Gruenewald, Freisthler, Remer, & LaScala, 2010).
    • Assessing whether local alcohol outlets follow and comply with the requirements outlined in conditional use permits (CUPs) in the community. CUPs regulate spacing between alcohol outlets and proximity to “sensitive land uses” (e.g., residential neighborhoods, parks, schools, churches; Sparks et al., 2011).
  • A plan to reduce outlet density which has been developed in collaboration with key community partners who are concerned about underage drinking and/or alcohol-related incidents (e.g., community leaders, local planning department, alcohol policy organizations). Density-reduction strategies can include the following:
    • Preventing alcohol outlets from being located near youth-related venues (e.g., schools, playgrounds) or over-concentrated in certain areas (e.g., low-income neighborhoods).
      • Note: Over-concentration of outlets in a particular area has also been shown to be related to higher levels of violence in and around those areas (Grubesic & Pridemore, 2011).
    • ​Allowing alcohol outlets only in low-traffic flow areas where impacts of alcohol-impaired driving can be minimized (Gruenewald, 2007).
    • Supporting the development of CUPs with clear criteria that alcohol outlets must meet to continue operating in the community, and monitor for compliance.
    • Limiting privatization (i.e., eliminating the government’s role in regulating off-premise sales and allowing private entities to sell liquor) of alcohol sales if focused on a setting with government control of retail sales (Hahn et al, 2012).


  • Community leaders
  • Alcohol outlet owners and distributors
  • General public


  • No outcome data found for role of limiting location and density of alcohol beverage outlets in preventing underage drinking and/or its consequences.
  • A review of the research literature found that greater outlet density has been associated with increased alcohol consumption and related harms, including injuries, crime, and violence (Campbell et al., 2009; Grubesic & Pridemore, 2011; Gruenewald, Freisthler, Remer, & LaScala, 2010; Gruenewald & Remer, 2006; Reboussin, Song, & Wolfson, 2011; Scribner et al., 2008).


Alcohol Issues Policy Briefing Paper: The Perils of Preemption

How Alcohol Outlets Affect Neighborhood Violence

How To Use Local Regulatory and Land Use Powers to Prevent Underage Drinking

Preventing Underage Drinking: Using Getting to Outcomes™ with the SAMHSA Strategic Prevention Framework to Achieve Results

Strategizer 55: Regulating Alcohol Outlet Density: An Action Guide


Alcohol - Excessive Consumption: Regulation of Alcohol Outlet Density


Campbell, C. A., Hahn, R. A., Elder, R., Brewer, R., Chattopadhyay, S., Fielding, J., . . . Middleton, J. C. (2009). The effectiveness of limiting alcohol outlet density as a means of reducing excessive alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harms. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 37(6), 556–569.

Grubesic, T. H., & Pridemore, W. A. (2011). Alcohol outlets and clusters of violence. International Journal of Health Geographics, 10(1), 30.

Gruenewald, P. J., & Remer, L. (2006). Changes in outlet densities affect violence rates. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 30(7), 1184–1193.

Gruenewald, P. (2007). Limits on outlet density and location: Effects on traffic safety. In Transportation research circular No. E-C123 (pp. 109–119). Washington, DC: Transportation Research Board of the National Academies.

Gruenewald, P., Freisthler, B., Remer, L., & LaScala, E. (2010). Ecological associations of alcohol outlets with underage and young adult injuries. Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, 34(3), 519–527.

Hahn, R. A., Middleton, J. C., Elder, R., Brewer, R., Fielding, J., Naimi, T. S., . . . Campbell, C. A. (2012). Effects of alcohol retail privatization on excessive alcohol consumption and related harms: A community guide systematic review. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 42(4), 418–27. Retrieved from

Imm, P., Chinman, M., Wandersman, A., Rosenbloom, D., Guckenburg, S., & Leis, R. (2007). Preventing underage drinking: Using Getting To Outcomes™ with the SAMHSA Strategic Prevention Framework to achieve results. Retrieved from

Mosher J. (2001). Alcohol issues policy briefing paper: The perils of preemption. Chicago IL: American Medical Association.

Reboussin, B. A., Song, E. Y., & Wolfson, M. (2011). The impact of alcohol outlet density on the geographic clustering of underage drinking behaviors within census tracts. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 35(8), 1541–1549.

Scribner, R., Mason, K., Theall, K., Simonsen, N., Schneider, S. K., Towvim, L. G., & DeJong, W. (2008). The contextual role of alcohol outlet density in college drinking. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 69(1), 112–120.

Sparks, M., Jernigan, D. H., & Mosher, J. F. (2011). Strategizer 55: Regulating alcohol outlet density: An action guide. Alexandria, VA: Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) and the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Retrieved from