Cigarette tax hikes nationwide have many smokers kicking the habit. The current economic mess may also have gamblers going to casinos less often. Yet, one costly vice always seems to get a pass: the use (and abuse) of alcohol—expensive, dangerous and sometimes deadly.

This is not a call for temperance: sharing a drink with friends can be relaxing and fun and medical findings say an occasional glass of wine may even be beneficial. But selling alcohol in clubs and restaurants is where the profits lie since the tossing of a shot into a glass costs much less than whipping up great tornadoes Rossini or a spectacular tiramisu .

Drinking at home isn’t cheap, but it is far less expensive than drinking out. Yet there is little said about the club-hopping crowd blowing rent or grocery money at bars and dining rooms where a few beers can run $10 - $20 and the cost of two martinis equals a restaurant entrée.

This doesn’t occur to some diners when at, let’s say, a mid-level urban eatery, Couple A drinks mineral water or diet Coke with dinner and Couple B has cocktails and two glasses of wine with the meal. Those alcoholic beverages add the equivalent of two additional meals onto the bill. So Couple A ends up paying for three full meals in its half of the tab. (Would anyone order a second entrée and expect the other couple to pay for it?)

New England clubs and restaurants see no decline in drink orders with prices (beer, $4.50 - $5.50, wine, $6 - $10, or cocktails, $10 - $13) still seeming reasonable to patrons. Suburban bar prices are at least a dollar cheaper on beer, wine and cocktails than in most city bars. Still, budgets can be strained by a couple of Grey Goose martinis at $10 or more each, or a few shots of Patron tequila, at $8 or higher per shot.

Mark Gasbarro, fourth generation owner of Gasbarro Wines in Providence sees more patrons seeking cheaper ($9 - $10) bottles of wine. They understand that a bottle of good wine often costs less than one glass served by a bartender. A 33 oz. bottle of Grey Goose Vodka at $35 retail, meanwhile, makes 17 martinis-- enough to keep most drinkers happy for a week.

Two glasses of wine totaling $18 (plus a tip) equal at least 8 gallons of gas, a meal in many fine restaurants, at least two packs of cigarettes, three tickets to most movies, the co-pay for a doctor visit, one day’s worth of groceries, an hour at the quarter slots at Foxwoods Casino or a few races at the track with average luck, and a whole lot more.

Multiply that $18-worth of socializing times the number of nights most regular patrons drink out, and we’re talking serious dents in rent, prescriptions, insurance, telephone, child support, tuition, and many other serious monthly bills. (Then there are also the related “drinking costs” for parking, parking tickets, “picking up the tab,” auto damage, injuries and worse from drinking and driving.)

The deep recession reminds us that the phrase, “Drink Responsibly” has an economic edge as well, and one worth managing prudently, perhaps at home.

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Mary Ann Sorrentino

Mary Ann Sorrentino
Italy Series of articles runs Aug./Sept/Oct 2015

Hope for the Future: Uruguay 2007

Hope for the Future: Uruguay 2007
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"JOACHIM" - Oct. '92-March '08

"JOACHIM"  - Oct. '92-March '08
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