Santa Barbara has the highest number of retail outlets selling alcohol compared with California cities of similar size, according to new findings from the Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse.
The group discovered that Santa Barbara has 57.6 alcohol retail licenses per every 10,000 residents, well ahead of the second-highest city of its size — Santa Monica, which recorded 44 outlets per 10,000 residents.
Santa Barbara County’s number is also high — at 32.1 licenses per every 10,000 residents, making it the second-highest number in the state among counties of comparable size.
Within the region, the findings state that Arroyo Grande has the next highest number, with 34.8 licenses per 10,000 people, Carpinteria at 34.5 licenses, Goleta with 31 and Santa Maria with just 19.
Those findings came from Jennifer Cabrera, a data analyst at Fighting Back, a program administered by CADA that works to plan and implement community initiatives to address the problems caused by substance abuse.
Cabrera compiled the numbers using data from the 2010 Census as well as licensing data from the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
Cabrera’s findings looked at both on-sale outlets, where alcohol is served on site, such as a restaurant or bar, as well as off-sale outlets, such as gas stations and liquor stores.
“I was pretty shocked,” Cabrera told Noozhawk, adding that she had heard there was a high number in Santa Barbara, but the data confirmed that hunch.
“We look at these numbers and say, ‘What can we do to make our community a safer place?’” said Melissa Wilkins, who works for Fighting Back as a prevention coordinator.
Why there are so many more outlets in Santa Barbara remains to be seen, and Wilkins said she could only speculate, but the data will be a helpful starting point as the group seeks grants and determines how to best target its programming.
“It’s important to know the composition of the community when we come together to make decision on how to best prevent alcohol use and abuse among adults and youth,” Wilkins said. “That’s one of the reasons we do continue to put together this type of data so that the projects we put in place are research based and will provide effective intervention.”
Wilkins said the South Coast continues to have a higher rate of alcohol use and binge drinking among youths compared the state average.
“We want to increasingly work on prevention,” said Lauren Haines, who manages media and special events for CADA.
Wilkins said the group would like to work with everyone from retailers and merchants who have sold alcohol to minors in the past, as well as educating parents and youth about the dangers of alcohol abuse.
The Fighting Back Steering Committee will be looking at the findings and giving direction as to where to go next, Wilkins said.