Descriptive Title: Density of off-sale alcohol outlets per square mile

Geographic Unit of Analysis: Point

Density of off-sale* alcohol outlets (2011)
NeighborhoodNumber of off-sale alcohol outletsDensity of off-sale alcohol outlets per square mileOff-sale alcohol outlets per 1,250 population
Bayview/Hunter's Point 29 5.9 1.1
Bernal Heights 22 18.8 1.1
Castro/Upper Market 27 31.5 1.7
Chinatown 17 127.1 2.3
Excelsior 20 12.5 0.7
Financial District/South Beach 28 40.3 5.1
Glen Park
Golden Gate Park NA NA NA
Haight Ashbury 29 38 1.7
Hayes Valley
Inner Richmond 32 24.4 1.1
Inner Sunset 17 12.7 0.8
Lakeshore 4 1.1 0.3
Lincoln Park
Lone Mountain/USF
Marina 31 31.9 1.8
McLaren Park
Mission 88 50.9 2.0
Mission Bay
Nob Hill 29 78.7 1.6
Noe Valley 21 23.4 1.4
North Beach 29 46.4 2.9
Outer Mission 14 10.2 0.6
Outer Richmond 27 19.9 0.9
Pacific Heights 17 25.4 1.1
Potrero Hill 22 16 2.2
Presidio 0 0 0.0
Presidio Heights 4 9.1 0.6
Russian Hill 15 31.5 1.1
San Francisco 819 17.4 1.3
Seacliff 2 2.8 1.0
South of Market 60 28.4 2.2
Treasure Island 1 1.1 0.4
Twin Peaks 1 1.5 0.2
Visitacion Valley 12 8.1 0.6
West of Twin Peaks 11 5.8 0.7
Western Addition 68 44.8 1.6

Why Is This An Indicator Of Health and Sustainability?

Research strongly suggests that density of alcohol outlets is closely related to crime and violence. For example, one study in New Jersey found that neighborhoods with alcohol outlet density, controlling for age and poverty, had more violent crimes, including homicide, rape, assault, and robbery.a In Los Angeles, a higher density of alcohol outlets was also associated with more violence, even when controlling for unemployment, age, ethnic and racial characteristics, and other community characteristics.b In a six-year study of changes in numbers of alcohol outlets in 551 urban and rural zip code areas in California, an increase in the number of bars and off-premise places (e.g., liquor, convenience and grocery stores) was related to an increase in the rate of violence. These effects were largest in poor, minority areas of the state, those areas already saturated with the greatest numbers of outlets.c Finally, people who live near an abundance of fast-food restaurants and convenience stores compared to grocery stores and fresh produce vendors, have a significantly higher prevalence of obesity and diabetes.d

Interpretation and Geographic Equity Analysis

"Off-sale alcohol outlets" are those authorized by the State of California to sell all types of alcoholic beverages for consumption off the premises in original, sealed containers, such as grocery stores, liquor stores, mini-marts, and package stores. This excludes restaurants, bars and other types of facilities where alcohol is consumed onsite. Off-sale alcohol permits are either “general” for the sale of beer, wine, and distilled spirits, or are “beer and wine” where only beer and wine can be sold. Per Section 23817.5 of the California ABC Act, there the number of licenses for each off-sale type is limited to 1 for every 2,500 inhabitants of a county, or 1 for every 1,250 inhabitants for both types combined.

This indicator illustrates the density of off-sale alcohol outlets per square mile and per person.  As of 2011, one of every ten off-sale alcohol outlets in San Francisco was located in the Mission and one of every eleven was located in Downtown/Civic Center.  The neighborhoods with the highest density of off-sale alcohol outlets per square mile are Chinatown, Downtown/Civic Center, Nob Hill, the Mission, and North Beach.  The neighborhoods with the highest density of off-sale alcohol outlets per population are the Financial District, North Beach, Chinatown, Potrero Hill and South of Market. Sixteen neighborhoods have fewer than 1 outlet per 1,250 persons, while seven neighborhoods have at least twice the State standard. 

According to the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, "Neighborhoods where bars, restaurants and liquor and other stores that sell alcohol are close together suffer more frequent incidences of violence and other alcohol-related problems, according to recent research by the Prevention Research Center and others. The strong connection between alcohol and violence has been clear for a long time -- but now we know that this connection also relates to the location of places that sell alcohol."

Because the density of off-sale alcohol outlets in San Francisco exceeds the state threshold (more than one for every 1,250 people in the county) as defined in ABC Act, Section 23817.5, San Francisco currently is under moratorium and no new alcohol outlet licenses are permitted. When an existing business with a liquor license closes or ceases to use its license, that license may be bought or traded by another business owner within the city, if the proposed new business is not in an area of "undue concentration" (defined as 1) police districts where the number of reported crimes is 20% or greater than the city average and 2) census tracts where the ratio of off-sale alcohol licenses per population is greater than the county wide ratio). More information about the licensing process is available on the Alcohol and Beverage Control Department's website:

Recognizing that certain neighborhoods have disproportionate access to bars and alcohol outlets, the city of San Francisco established “Alcoholic Beverage Special Use Subdistricts” in the Mission, Haight, Lower Haight, Third Street and Divisadero Street to further limit alcohol sales in the neighborhoods by prohibiting new establishments from selling alcoholic beverages in bars and off-sale liquor establishments, except for in restaurants and non-profit theaters (see SF Planning Code Sections 781.8, 781.9-784). 


List of alcohol outlets obtained from the California Department of Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) in October 2011 from:  San Francisco businesses included have License Type 20 and 21. 


As illustrated by the map, take-out alcohol outlets are not evenly distributed within neighborhoods.  The clustering of outlets in certain locations means that certain areas of a neighborhood may be disproportionately impacted by proximity to multiple alcohol outlets whereas other areas in the same neighborhood have few outlets.

At the same time, not all take-out alcohol outlets are the same.  The stores may vary in hours open, what types of other products or types of alcohol they sell, what languages are spoken, and what clientele they serve.  The presence of a full-service grocery store likely has a very different impact on a neighborhood’s access to healthy food resources than the presence of a package or liquor store. 

Although there is officially a moratorium on new alcohol outlet licenses in San Francisco, the trading of licenses with another business owner does occur and may impact the distribution of alcohol outlets across the city. 

Although various research studies have found that a higher concentration of alcohol outlets is associated with higher rates of violence in neighborhoods, the presence of alcohol outlets does not mean there definitely will be more violence, nor does their absence ensure there will be no violence.  

Data Source

Location of Alcohol Outlets from California Department of Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC), downloaded October of 2011.

Population data from the 2010 US Census.

Map prepared by City and County of San Francisco, Department of Public Health, Environmental Health Section using ArcGIS software.

Table data is presented by planning neighborhood.

Detailed information regarding census data, geographic units of analysis, their definitions, and their boundaries can be found at the following links:

Interactive boundaries map

  1. Gorman. D, Speer P, Gruenewald P, and Labouvie E. Spatial dynamics of alcohol availability, neighborhood structure and violent crime. Journal of Studies on Alcohol. 2001;62:628-636.
  2. Scribner R. et al. The risk of assaultive violence and alcohol availability in LA County. Am J Pub Health. 1995;85:335-340.
  3. Gruenewald PJ, Remer L. Changes in outlet densities affect violence rates. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. 2006;30:1184-1193.
  4. PolicyLink, the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, and California Center for Public Health Advocacy. Designed for Disease: The Link Between Local Food Environments and Obesity and Diabetes. April 2008.