Joshua Grigaitis fills a cooler with wine bottles and cans in one of the city’s oldest bars.
It’s Saturday night, and the lights are low. Frank Sinatra’s crooning voice fills the air, along with the aroma of incense. The place has all the makings of a swank boozy hangout.
Elsewhere, in Rock Hill, South Carolina, the high-end secondhand store Clothes Mentor served margaritas at its annual clearance sale. Nearby, Liberty Tax served the tequila drink when customers went in to finish their taxes last April. And a dentist’s office that treats adults and children hosts after-hours drop-in events that include wine. None of those businesses responded to requests for comment.
“Culturally, we know it’s not OK to hand out opioids when you’re getting your hair or nails done, yet a wine alcohol kills more people than opioids, and businesses will hand it out,” said Alexandra Greenawalt, director of prevention at the nonprofit addiction treatment center Keystone Substance Abuse Services in Rock Hill.
Washington, DC, has 2055 outlets that sell alcohol – one for every 315 people, which Jernigan said is high. Some low-income, primarily African-American neighbourhoods have few retail outlets other than liquor stores and convenience stores selling beer and wine.
Lothorio Ross says his alcoholism led to his homelessness.
Ross, 38, started drinking at about 17 while on fishing trips with his father. Now homeless in DC and coping with alcoholism, he said, he can get alcohol on credit from some liquor stores.
But he said he’s trying to quit with the help of the nonprofit Father McKenna Center and reminding himself what life used to be like.
“Up until I started drinking in my teens, I was having fun,” said Ross. “So, you can have fun without drinking; it is possible.”