Alcohol OK in San Jose

City Council approves new, but strict rules on liquor sales at gas station

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The San Jose, Calif., City Council on Tuesday voted to officially allow the sale of alcohol at gas stations, saying that new rules controlling permits will be tough enough to protect neighborhoods from bad business owners, reported the Mercury News.

The decision repeals a 20-year-old ban on food and alcohol sales at stationsenabling newer stations to get in on a business that only a handful of older stations have been able to pursue until now.

The six-to-one vote came after two years of debate among station [image-nocss] owners who want to add mini-marts, residents who suffer from problems associated with liquor sales and law enforcement officers who link them to higher crime rates, the report said.

What you have before you is probably one of the strictest sets of rules in the state, said Vice Mayor Cindy Chavez, who Tuesday offered a memo spelling out dozens of conditions that officials could impose on businesses seeking permits to sell alcohol. The four-page memo was signed by councilwomen Nora Campos, Linda LeZotte and Judy Chirco.

But the new rules were not strong enough for Councilwoman Madison Nguyen, who voted against the ordinance because, she said, there are too many alcohol outlets in her district already. Councilman Chuck Reed abstained from voting because he represents a client who owns a gas station. Mayor Ron Gonzales, Campos and Dave Cortese were absent.

A half-dozen speakers addressed the council Tuesday, said the report, with residents thanking council members for responding to their concerns, and station owners welcoming the chance to expand their businesses. Resident John Zamora, however, echoed concerns voiced at previous hearings that gasoline and alcohol should not be sold at the same business. He said the policy sends the message that it's OK to drink and drive.

The council approved Chavez's memo, guidelines proposed earlier by the planning staff members and a memo by planning director Stephen Haase proposing an inspection plan. The council voted to repeal the ban October 5, but asked staff members to come back with tougher rules to respond to residents' complaints of public drunkenness, noise, litter and blight.

The issue originally focused on allowing stations to sell food, beer and wine, but grew into a study of all off-sale outletsthose at which customers buy alcohol but do not drink it on the premises. While only the state can grant liquor licenses, city officials can maintain some control over sales by requiring special permits based on land-use and public safety principles, said the report.

Planning staff members earlier had proposed guidelines that prohibited permits in high-crime areas and within 500 feet of a school, park, day care center, social-services agency or residential-care facility, or within 150 feet of a residence. Four outlets could not be within a 1,000-foot radius. City officials also could grant exceptions if the outlet would be a convenience to residents in an underserved population or would revitalize a commercial area, the newspaper said.

The rules proposed in Tuesday's memo give commissioners the ability to impose such restrictions as banning single-can sales of alcoholic beverages and fortified wines or malt liquors, prohibiting pay phones in or near the business as well as arcade-style video and electronic games, it added. Businesses can be required to provide trash cans and training for employees on rules for alcohol sales. The commissioners can also limit hours and the types of alcohol sold, impose security measures and regulate the design of areas devoted to alcohol sales.

The ordinance sets up an inspection program to be paid for by the businesses through an annual fee of $287. Businesses not following the rules will also have to pay a $70.52 re-inspection fee, the report said.

Meanwhile, in southwestern Kansas, Sunday sales of beer and liquor in the town of Scammon won approval by a vote of63 to 57Tuesday, the Associated Press said. It will allow the town's only liquor store to be open on Sundays, as well as the sale of full-strength beer at convenience stores and grocery stores.

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