State Liquor Store Puts Yuppies Before Disabled Customers

In New Hampshire—whose culture we're suddenly learning all about, in piecemeal fashion—the parking situation outside the state's new, $3.3 million liquor store is probably causing a lot of anxiety for residents who have ever voted for Ralph Nader at some point in their lives.

Located in Nashua, the 20,000 square-foot place of Vice, Sin, Spiritual Decay, Self-Destruction, and other delightful tonics was constructed to meet the requirements for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification—a standard given to buildings that are treehugger-friendly. Unlike the musty old corner liquor store once frequented by your cirrhotic Uncle Don, may he rest in peace, this joint's got solar panels, LED lighting, geo-thermal heating, and other "green" qualities designed to protect the environment and, it seems, maybe even get you to reconsider your lush life (for I don't know about you, but all I can think about are wheatgrass smoothies now).

Directly in front of the store are three or four spaces designated for hybrid vehicles, which make the store more LEED-y. However, these spots also take away parking real estate that would be normally reserved for handicapped drivers. And therein lies the tension of our story, and the source of consternation for anyone who promotes both disabled people's rights and climate protection. Which issue should win?

Rep. Peter Silva, the Republican state representative of Nashua, thinks wheelchairs should trump hybrids:

To choose to display such blatant priority for special interests over seniors, wounded veterans and others who have mobility difficulty is deplorable ...The [New Hampshire Liquor C]ommission owes the public an explanation as well as a plan to remedy this situation immediately."

But the head of the state Democratic Party says Silva is just trying to get attention and has no right to complain about this situation because he's a Republican, and all they ever do is try to cut services for disabled people. Which sounds about right.

Meanwhile, Liquor Commission chair Joseph Mollica says that, even though the store's designated handicapped parking spots aren't located right at the entrance door, but a bit farther away, they somehow offer greater bathroom access for disabled customers:

"We felt that the handicapped customers that come to the store would be better served being closer to the bathrooms," he said. "As retailers, we realized the importance of making it convenient if people need to use the facilities.

"It was designed in a way to keep all our guests happy."

Looks like that effort failed. Probably the only solution is to buy hybrid cars for all the store's disabled customers.

[Boston Globe, Nashua Telegraph]