As Oceanside gets ready to welcome its fourth Walmart location, community opposition is growing over the chain’s application to sell alcohol. The new store, a smaller “Walmart Neighborhood Market” concept, will be located in the Mission Square Shopping Center, just off I-5 on Mission Avenue. The former Office Depot site is across the street from Oceanside High School.
Some neighborhood activists, already upset about yet another Walmart in their city, say the application for the sale of beer and wine is unacceptable. Community groups such as the North Coastal Prevention Coalition, the Eastside Neighborhood Association, and the Oceanside Coastal Neighborhood Association point out that this area of Oceanside, west of I-5, has an overabundance of stores that sell alcohol.
Causing the current uproar is the required “notice of application” posting for Walmart’s liquor license. Upon application to the state’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, regulations say business owners are required to post a large yellow sign from the ABC, stating a business’ name and ownership and the type of alcohol sales applied for. The sign also advises how the public may comment on the application.
Unfortunately, the sign has now been removed, having met the 60-day posting requirement, and the ABC says the public-comment period is closed.
Opponents say while the application sign may have been posted in the window, it was not in plain sight. Blocked by construction fencing, the sign could only have been seen by driving through the construction area, to the three small businesses east of Walmart, in the far northeast corner of the shopping center — two mom-and-pop fast-food restaurants and a barber shop. The sign could not have been seen from 12 high-traffic-volume stores, including a 99 Cent Only, O’Reilly Auto Parts, Panda Express, and an El Pollo Loco.
Leading the charge against Walmart is Oceanside native and business owner Ken Leighton (who also writes for the Reader). In his weekly opinion column published in the Coast News, Leighton often laments about the destruction of his hometown and isn’t afraid to name names of who he thinks is responsible. Some say he is the only one speaking out for the older neighborhoods and small businesses of Oceanside.
Leighton says Walmart, the ABC, and the city might have a big lawsuit on their hands if alcohol sales are approved for the new Walmart. Several years ago, the 99 Cent Only store, right next to Walmart, was denied a liquor-sales license due to the proximity of the high school.
The city and the police department say they have no reason to oppose Walmart’s alcohol application. The ABC says they are still studying the issue.
Footnote: Mission Square shopping center holds a piece of Oceanside’s history in that, in 1958, it was the first strip mall built in coastal North County. It started the mass exodus of traditional retailers, and shoppers, from Oceanside’s downtown. Some of the original stores were Thrifty Drug, a Vons grocery store, Elm’s Clothiers, and a chain department store known as W.T. Grant. The longest remaining business in the center is Radio Shack, which opened in 1967.