Facing vocal opposition from convenience store owners, Sacramento County supervisors delayed a vote Tuesday on regulations that would effectively limit alcohol sales and operating hours for small new retailers in an attempt to fight crime and vagrancy.
The supervisors adopted a less controversial change that requires restaurateurs to undergo a new county review before obtaining an alcohol use permit.
But county leaders tabled action for now on a broader proposal that would effectively ban sales of single beers and mini liquor bottles, as well as restrict hours, for small retailers applying for a new liquor license or significant change in operations.
About 200 convenience store owners crowded the board chambers Tuesday, and many voiced their opposition to the planned regulations. While the proposal would apply only to new licenses, the owners said they had concerns should they sell or expand.
County Planning Director Leighann Moffitt said the regulations would help the county control alcohol sales in areas that have problems with crime and vagrancy.
During a public hearing that lasted more than two hours, only one other person spoke in favor of regulating alcohol sales. Brian Holloway of Holloway Land Company said many business owners complain to him about loitering and other problems caused by the sale of single beers.
Small retailers would face a county alcohol permitting process lasting about six months and costing $13,500. The proposal would exempt most large retailers and grocers but would still apply to businesses specializing in alcohol sales such as Beverages & More.
Convenience store owners said the regulations would hurt their businesses.
Everyone in this room brings commerce and jobs to the county, said Mark Paul Arabo, president and CEO of the Neighborhood Market Association, based in San Diego. We want fairness.
Because many of the convenience store owners are Sikh, Arabo said the county could face a legal claim of unfairly targeting a group. That argument was rejected Tuesday by an assistant county counsel.
Supervisors instructed county staff to come back with information to answer questions raised at Tuesdays hearing, including how the county might regulate the growing craft beer industry.
Daniel Scott, organizer of Sacramento Beer Week and a consultant for craft breweries, said his specialized industry sells a lot of single beers but suggested that its target audience is different from the one that concerns county officials. Craft breweries often sell 22-ounce single beers, he said. Many sell for $7 or more per bottle.
Nineteen craft breweries operate in the area, and the county should work with them to keep them going, Scott said.
Supervisor Roberta MacGlashan agreed.
This is an economic development opportunity for the region, she said.
County staff is also expected to address how the regulations would apply to owners who sell their business and whether they can lower the expected cost of the permitting process. The board is expected to take up the issue on Oct. 22.
The new restaurant rules approved Tuesday give the county greater authority over the sale of alcohol beyond what the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control has. New restaurants will have to obtain a use permit from the county, paying $1,200 and undergoing a review process lasting a week or less.
Call The Bees Brad Branan, (916) 321-1065. Follow him on Twitter @BradB_at_SacBee.