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Sacramento County grants WinCo a liquor license at Country Club Plaza

Sacramento

Sacramento County supervisors approved a liquor license for a WinCo Foods grocery store at Country Club Plaza despite receiving about 150 letters from Arden Arcade-area residents in opposition.

The board voted 3-2 in favor of the license, with Supervisors Jimmie Yee, Susan Peters and Roberta MacGlashan citing the need for economic development in the struggling commercial district on Watt Avenue and El Camino Boulevard. The Idaho-based grocery store chain plans the store in the former Gottschalks department store in Country Club Plaza.

The center, which recently changed ownership, has a 70 percent vacancy rate, including the Gottschalks location that has been empty since the retailer went out of business in 2009. WinCo Foods, a discount grocer, is expected to invest $18 million to renovate the building and hire 180 employees by the time it joins Macy’s as the second national anchor at the mall.

Many residents of the area told supervisors that adding liquor sales will only contribute to the area’s woes.

Robert Lilly of Arden Arcade said he and his wife were attacked in their home in 2008 by a man who turned out to have a blood-alcohol level of 0.22 percent, or more than twice the legal limit for drivers.

“We have too many alcohol stores in our neighborhood,” he said.

Liquor licenses are granted by the state, but the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control defers to local government when an area already has reached its recommended limit for licenses or is a high-crime area. According to county planners, the WinCo proposal faced both of those conditions, as the area already had four licenses when state regulations call for two.

Michael Seaman of Arden Arcade showed supervisors a map with 47 liquor licenses within a mile and a half of the WinCo location.

“It’s time to draw a line in the sand,” he said.

The Arden Arcade Community Planning Advisory Council recommended denial of the license by a 5-1 vote. The county also received letters opposing the project and heard opposition from neighborhood group leaders, including the head of the Country Club Alliance of Neighborhoods.

Supervisors Don Nottoli and Phil Serna opposed the license, citing resident opposition and problems related to alcohol consumption in the area. Serna said officials need to revisit liquor license authority in general, as the state’s limits seem to have little meaning any more.

The Sheriff’s Department withdrew its original opposition to the liquor license when WinCo agreed to conditions that include not selling alcohol between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. The grocer will gate off its beer and wine aisle during those hours, according to a county staff report.

In his final vote as a supervisor, Yee, who is retiring this month, cast the deciding vote for the liquor license after other supervisors indicated they were divided. Yee said he thinks the area needs the development, and was also persuaded by WinCo management’s efforts to sell liquor responsibly.

Mark Lavin, senior director for real estate at WinCo Foods, said employees are terminated for selling alcohol to underage people, and that has not happened in about seven years at any of its stores. The store will sell hard liquor in a separate section where purchases must be made at a separate register.

Peters, who represents the area, said the investment is central to the area’s needs. She said she will be working with area businesses and county departments to address concerns residents have about crime and panhandling in the area.

Call The Bee’s Brad Branan, (916) 321-1065. Follow him on Twitter @BradB_at_SacBee.

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