Drug store requests city waiver for sale of beer and wine in residential area.
Show Date: May 6, 2010.
Nearly thirty-seven percent of criminal offenders are under the influence of alcohol when committing crimes, according to Federal statistics.
After decades of decline, alcohol use and addiction among teens is on the rise.
Therefore, one might ask, why is a national drug store seeking city waivers to sell wine and beer in residential areas and in proximity to schools?
Where city ordinances would otherwise forbid it, Walgreens is asking for special waivers to make wine available until 10:00 pm and beer available 24/7. A Walgreens attorney stated, “Our customers asked for it. They want the convenience of a one-stop shop.”
Were you contacted by Walgreens Pharmacy on this matter? Did you ask Walgreens to become your residential 7/11?
Here’s what transpired at the zoning hearing I attended. The purpose of the hearing:
TO PASS A RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COMMISSION GRANTING CONDITIONAL USE APPROVAL TO PERMIT THE SALE OF BEER AND WINE AT THE WALGREENS PHARMACY/DRUG STORE, NOTWITHSTANDING THE SPACING AND DISTANCE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE SALE AND SERVICE OF ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES REGULATED BY SECTION 4-2(a) AND SECTION 4-2(b) OF THE CITY CODE.
The sections cited pertained to schools and residential neighborhoods.
What type of beer-drinking clients will Walgreens attract at 3:00 am? And where will they hang out after departing the store? Could their drinking lead to break-ins in nearby condos and homes? Would women entering their cars in unprotected condo parking lots or catching the bus at early hours be put at unnecessary risk? Will there be an increase in alcohol-related violence in the neighborhood?
The meeting was scheduled for 6:00 pm. I arrived twenty minutes early. The mayor – elected on an environmental platform – descended from the podium and walked straight up to me. “Hi, I’m Susan Gottleib,” she said. It’s unusual to see people at these meetings, so I wanted to introduce myself.”
She called the meeting to order. The female staff advisor to the Commission recommended that the resolution be approved. The mayor asked for testimony from the floor. I took the mike with trepidation. Who wants to go up against a a major chain like Walgreens – and a store that I like!
I said that I had spoken with over a dozen people who were strongly opposed. The reason they didn’t show up is because they thought commissioners had already made up their minds. I was here to prove them wrong.
I then argued that Walgreens and the Commission would be putting the neighborhood at risk for break-ins, thefts and violent acts. After-all, the area was zoned to prevent such harm. If Walgreens felt it was so important to sell wine until 10:00 pm and beer 24/7, why not sell it in a shopping mall, rather in a location sandwiched between condos, a synagogue and school?
Commissioner Bob Diamond stated that, indeed, the waiver violated city ordinances. Commissioners Zev Auerbach and Michael Stern raised concerns and offered alternatives. They recommended that sales of both wine and beer be prohibited after 10:00 pm and that the sale of cold beer be prohibited altogether.
The City Attorney cautioned that it was difficult to restrict beer sales after certain hours. Sales should either be permitted or not.
The Walgreens attorney said that restricting the hour of sales was above his pay grade. He mentioned that Walgreens hoped to sell beer and wine elsewhere in the city as well – in a commercially zoned area.
The Commission nearly jumped out of its collective seat with a resounding – “You can’t do that. Zoning for that store positively prohibits it.”
In other words, it’s OK to waive zoning protection in a residential area but not in a commercial area.
The vice-mayor – also a woman – argued that local police were not concerned about a possible rise in crime and submitted a letter to this effect.
Mayor Gottleib argued that she saw no difference between the sale of wine and beer at Walgreens and the sale of both at Fresh Market or the local food store. “I think we’ve heard enough,” she concluded, and called for a vote. (Was I the only one who wanted to testify? Perhaps I spoke for all.)
Three women – the mayor, vice-mayor and a third female commissioner – voted for the waiver, joined by one male commissioner. Three male commissioners stood their ground and voted no: Bob Diamond, Zev Auerbach, and Michael Stern.
I say, bravo to these men. It’s a sad day when women politicians champion alcohol sales over the safety of the community – surely not the kind of “environmental platform” I can endorse.
The three women might be right…but what if they’re wrong? Will victims be comforted by the knowledge that Walgreens requested and received a special waiver to sell beer 24/7 in a residential area? Is Walgreens establishing a precedent related to schools and family homes?
“Well, if residents complain, we can always call another hearing and rescind the permission,” the Mayor said, smiling broadly.