Almanac

News - June 15, 2011

Walgreens: one-stop shop for sundries ... and alcohol?

by Sandy Brundage

Next time you stop at Walgreens, you might be able to pick up a six-pack to go with that aspirin. The drugstore has asked Menlo Park to let it sell beer and wine, a request that reminded at least one veteran of last year's battle over allowing a Beverages & More (BevMo) to open in town.

Barbara Rosasco handed out a statement at the Hometown Peninsula meeting on June 6 to share her concerns. The statement cited the number of stores already selling alcohol in the city — at least 19 now, counting BevMo — and questioned whether "easy access to alcohol" at the store, which sits at 643 Santa Cruz Ave., would entice panhandlers, lead to public disturbances, and otherwise mar the "family-oriented home town atmosphere."

She also pointed to the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control's requirements for issuing alcohol permits that include a demonstrated "public convenience or necessity," and that the permit not prove detrimental to the welfare of the city."

Those requirements were frequently tossed into the heated debate over BevMo's permit application, along with concerns of economic damage to local merchants such as Beltramo's and Draeger's.

BevMo won its long battle. But Walgreens is struggling to obtain permits in other Bay Area locations, including Palo Alto and San Francisco.

Walgreens spokesman Robert Elfinger described the store's planned offerings as limited, saying the beer and wine selection would take up only about 2 percent of shelf space.

"Our small section won't feel like another liquor store in the neighborhood," he said. "We're known across the country as a very responsible retailer; we've been in business since 1901. We're going to create a safe environment for someone to occasionally buy a bottle of wine."

The drugstore chain carried a full liquor selection during the 1990s, but according to Mr. Elfinger, Walgreens stopped once the displays proved too cumbersome for managers. The move to start carrying alcohol again comes in response to customers asking for a one-stop shopping experience.

The use permit comes before the Menlo Park Planning Commission on Monday, June 27. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at the Civic Center, 701 Laurel St.

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