Regulation of Alcohol Outlet Density

The use of licensing or zoning laws allows states and communities to regulate the number of alcohol outlets in a given area. There is significant research showing that the more alcohol outlets, the greater the harms. This applies to both on-premise outlets (such as bars and restaurants) and off-premise outlets (such as grocery stores and liquor stores).

Note: this has been identified as one of the World Health Organization’s three “best buys,” a designation given to policy options that are highly cost effective, feasible, and culturally acceptable to implement


Bloom, D. E., Chisholm, D., Jané-Llopis, E., Prettner, K., Stein, A., & Feigl, A. (2011). From burden to" best buys": reducing the economic impact of non-communicable disease in low-and middle-income countries (No. 7511). Program on the Global Demography of Aging. Available online here.

Campbell, C. A., Hahn, R. A., Elder, R., Brewer, R., Chattopadhyay, S., Fielding, J., ... & Task Force on Community Preventive Services. (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. Available online here.
Scribner, R. A., Cohen, D. A., & Fisher, W. (2000). Evidence of a structural effect for alcohol outlet density: a multilevel analysis. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 24(2), 188-195. Abstract available here.