Wednesday, January 11, 2012

DISCUS Applauds Bloomberg's "Commitment to Hospitality Jobs."

Say what you will about lobbyists. When they lobby for a cause you support, you hope they will be good at their job. The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) is good at its job.

The first rule of issue advocacy is framing. Define the issue in the way most favorable to your position. That's why the headline on the press release is: "Distilled Spirits Council Applauds Mayor Bloomberg’s Commitment to New York City Hospitality Jobs."

That's not how the story started out.

Overnight, the New York Post broke a story under the headline, "Mayor's plan to limit booze sales." The lead went like this: "Party pooper! First, Mayor Bloomberg went after smoking in public places. Then trans-fats, salt and sugary drinks. Now Bloomberg — known for sipping fine wine and downing a cold beer from time to time — wants to crack down on alcohol sales to curb excessive drinking, according to a provocative planning document obtained by The Post."

The story was quickly picked up by bloggers, all too eager to condemn Bloomberg as First Nanny.

Small problem, though. It wasn't true.

The proposal to slash the number of establishments in the city that sell booze came from the city's health department, in a planning document that hadn't been fully vetted yet. Someone leaked it to The Post and they rushed it into print, assuming Bloomberg himself endorsed the plan.

He didn't.

Within hours of The Post's story, Bloomberg nixed the proposal (through spokesman Stu Loeser) and only then did DISCUS let its short press release fly.

"The Distilled Spirits Council applauds Mayor Bloomberg for nixing the New York City Health Department proposal to reduce alcohol outlets, and for understanding that population-based approaches to reduce alcohol abuse are ineffective. The Mayor clearly realizes that forcing thousands of restaurant workers and bartenders into the unemployment line is no way to improve community health.

"Repeated studies have shown that population-based approaches, such as advertising restrictions and a reduction in retail outlets, do little to reduce alcohol abuse and will only impact moderate drinkers and the employees of the hospitality industry."

That last sentence is worth committing to memory, for use the next time some politician or activist goes on a tear about restricting the number of retail licenses, or banning or restricting alcohol marketing. (Remember the Four Loko nonsense?) Those are phony solutions. They do nothing to discourage alcohol abuse and they hurt small businesses and the people they employ. They also inconvenience the vast majority of alcohol consumers who do so responsibly.

There is a constituency for that sort of thing. It is the anti-alcohol movement -- Neo-Prohibitionists, New Drys, whatever you want to call them. Their true goal is to give National Prohibition another go, but they know better than to admit that outright. Don't be fooled.

The Post, of course, in all its shameless majesty, is now crowing about how it broke the story. It neglects to mention that it grossly mis-reported the story. I'm sure no one is surprised by The Post's crappy journalism. Stay classy, NYP.