Two bright red banners at the former Apple Tree market in O.B. read “CVS Pharmacy – Coming Soon” but the future has become unclear because of protests to a pending application to sell beer, wine, and hard liquor.
Citizens have submitted their objections to the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), the agency that has final say over whether a license is granted for the store at 4949 Santa Monica Avenue.
The building has been vacant since the end of 2012, when Apple Tree lost its lease. CVS officials have said the pharmacy chain will not move in if denied the ability to sell alcohol.
For now, expect CVS to move forward in getting the building ready to become a drugstore, said Steve Laub, a project manager overseeing the endeavor.
“As far as I know, the schedule is unchanged,” Laub said in an email. But Laub did not respond to a follow-up question asking for an estimated move-in date.
CVS applied for the liquor license May 15, and citizens had the right to submit protests until June 26.
ABC lawyers must review the protests first and determine whether they have been lodged for legally valid reasons, said ABC district administrator Jennifer Hill. Once validated, the protests advance to the department's Hearing and Legal unit, where they are processed for investigation.
Hill said the protests don't become public information until they reach the investigation stage. But she did confirm “more than one” has been submitted.
Even though alcohol had been available for years at Apple Tree, the prospect of booze for sale by an incoming tenant at the location whipped up standing-room-only crowds when CVS asked for support from the Ocean Beach Planning Board late last year. Some dissenters didn't want more alcohol in an area the state had determined to be already oversaturated with liquor licenses. Others didn't want to support CVS when another drugstore chain, Rite-Aid, is located four blocks away; some wanted to wait for another grocery store to move in.
The board voted in support, but only after CVS agreed to a “community benefits package,” the terms of which were negotiated with the Ocean Beach Town Council and Ocean Beach Mainstreet Association.
But support from community groups doesn't lessen the obligation of the ABC to investigate all valid protests, Hill said.
“Any correspondence or agreement made with outside entities doesn't have any bearing on ABC's procedure,” she said. “Everyone gets input, but only ABC makes the decision.”
In the course of an investigation, protests are often resolved by adding operational conditions to a license, Hill said.
CVS did consent to some alcohol restrictions in the community benefits package; among other measures, the corporation agreed to refrain from selling kegs, shot-sized bottles of spirits, and single cans of beer. However, CVS didn't offer to make these restrictions a condition of getting a liquor license.