News - August 31, 2011

Walgreens loses appeal to sell beer, wine in Menlo

by Sandy Brundage

With far less contention than accompanied Beverages & More's successful request to sell alcohol on El Camino Real, the Menlo Park City Council voted 5-0 on Aug. 23 to deny Walgreens a permit to sell beer and alcohol.

The Planning Commission had voted 4-3 in June to turn down the request, saying public welfare would be damaged by stocking approximately 12 feet of shelf space with beer and wine in a drugstore on Santa Cruz Avenue. Daniel Beltramo of Beltramo's Fine Wines and Spirits had submitted the single letter opposing the appeal, arguing that Menlo Park already has more than its quota of alcohol outlets.

Meanwhile, Walgreens representative Dan Kramer contended that the zoning along downtown Santa Cruz Avenue allows alcohol sales without creating exceptions based on business type, and that there's no empirical evidence supporting opposition statements that the sales would be detrimental to the community. "The police department found no danger," he told the council, later adding that statistics show no impact on general welfare.

Selling "1 percent of the alcohol Trader Joe's sells" would put Walgreens on a level playing field with its competitors, according to Mr. Kramer.

The manager of a San Carlos Walgreens, which has sold alcohol for about a year, also addressed the council, saying that the nominal $100 to $200 per day in beer and wine sales indicates shoppers see it as a convenience rather than a main reason for visiting the drugstore. He said there's been no change in type of clientele or increased police activity.

But citing the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control's moratorium on similar permits in San Mateo County, Councilwoman Kirsten Keith moved to uphold the Planning Commission's denial of Walgreens' request.

"We are well served in our alcohol purchases. There are retailers just a few hundred feet away that do carry alcohol, just not on Santa Cruz Avenue," Ms. Keith said at Tuesday's meeting before making a motion to uphold the permit denial.


Posted by Greenie, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 1, 2011 at 9:54 am

Ms. Keith made a bad decision. There are those of us who live near downtown who do not want to cross the busy and dangerous El Camino Real to pick up a bottle of wine. We would love to have the convenience of picking up a bottle while on Santa Cruz Avenue. Why can't there be just one store on Santa Cruz Avenue where we can purchase wine or beer?

But Ms. Keith knows what is best for us. It is this condescending and patronizing attitude of Ms. Keith and the rest of the City Council that has us upset. They seem to forget they work for us.

Walgreens has been an exemplary mercahnt and this is the reward it gets? No wonder Menlo Park has the well deserved reputation of being hostile to businesses. Shame on Ms. Keith and shame on the Council members who voted with her.

Posted by Joanna, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 1, 2011 at 11:40 am

Hi Greenie,

Well said!

Posted by Donna, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 2, 2011 at 10:45 am

No one has to cross El Camino to purchase a bottle of wine. Several stores in/near the downtown area (certainly within walking distance) carry bear and wine including; Trader Joes, Dragger's and Safeway.

Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 2, 2011 at 4:50 pm

What's next? Are we going to follow San Francisco's stupidity and ban cigarette sales too?

Posted by interesting, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 2, 2011 at 11:16 pm

Really, more complaints?

The council approves BevMo and it just isn't enough?

C'mon guys, let's try to focus on the local supply and demand and avoid the national ideology debates.

Posted by schizophrenic, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Sep 3, 2011 at 1:52 am

Greenie's comments illustrate sock puppetry, where by a single individual uses multiple accounts to create a false impression of consensus. This is also a violation of the Almanac's terms. Greenie gave it away by writing, "this attitude... that has *us* upset". The poor argument of having to cross El Camino for a bottle of wine, when Trader Joe's is right out the back door, should also be a clue. Finally, this is the print version of the article, so Greenie had to dig into the recent additions in order to pull this article into the town square, and the Almanac played along by including the link in their Express email.

Not one citizen came to the council meeting to speak for or against the Walgreens permit.

Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 3, 2011 at 8:46 am

"Not one citizen came to the council meeting to speak for or against the Walgreens permit. "

Like me, they probably thught this was such a no brainer that the council couldn't screw it up. I was wrong.

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