The rights of a private business came head-to-head with the state agency that regulates liquor sales last Wednesday, April 22, in San Marcos.
Socal Gas & Car Wash, LLC, doing business as Arco AM/PM at 761 North Broadway in Escondido, sued the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control for denying its requested off-site beer-and-wine sales liquor license.
“A decision on this appeal will be made by the administrative law judge but will not be forthcoming for 60 days,” stated Melissa Ryan, supervisor of the department’s San Marcos branch. The ABC’s rationale for denying the liquor license is that it already has too many licensees in this area of Escondido. The gas station is located on the southwest corner of Mission Avenue and North Broadway.
The gas station’s representative appealed to the administrative law judge, saying that the state agency is treating the applicant unfairly, that it should make no difference if another gas station across the street sells the same product. They assert that consumers should be able to make their own choice on where to buy a product, not the State of California.
The gas station’s argument to the administrative law judge was that it is a private business and cannot be held responsible for the high crime statistics in its immediate vicinity. Since the business currently operates without a liquor license, any of the crime statistics that the agency presented as the reason for denial of the license could not be related to their specific gas-station business.
During the comment period early last year, 13 citizens filed petitions against issuing a liquor license; 9 of those citizens reside at Casa Escondida, an independent senior living complex located 250 feet south of the gas station, at 715 North Broadway.
The Casa Escondida residents stated, in writing, that they feared increased crime, homelessness, traffic congestion, and interference with their quiet tenancy. Three of the residents who filed the complaints (this reporter being one of them) were present at last week’s hearing and gave testimony. About 20 Casa Escondida tenants came to witness the standing-room-only hearing.
Edna Dooley, Casa Escondida's landlady, testified that she had no objections to the issuance of the liquor license.
“In fact,” said Dooley, “my residents have told me that they would prefer that the gas station get a liquor license so that they can buy their suds without having to cross the street,” she said.