Split vote denies Walgreens alcohol sales

Menlo Park Planning Commission votes 4-3

Who knew wine at Walgreens could threaten the welfare of Menlo Park? After hours of debate, the Planning Commission voted 4-3 on Monday night to deny the drugstore chain's request to sell beer and wine at its Santa Cruz Avenue location.

Commissioners Katie Ferrick, Peipei Yu, Jack O'Malley, and Ben Eiref voted against the permit, saying that allowing a downtown drugstore to sell alcohol for off-premise consumption was inappropriate and detrimental to Menlo Park's welfare.

"I see this as opening the door in town to a number of other businesses," Mr. O'Malley said. "We have to draw the line somewhere."

They argued that given the number of other stores within walking distance of the Walgreens at 643 Santa Cruz Avenue that already sell alcohol, such as Trader Joe's, adding sales to yet another location served neither public necessity nor convenience.

Location, location, location seemed to be the key. "It's a good thing Draeger's doesn't have a Santa Cruz Avenue address," Commissioner John Kadvany noted wryly as he explained why he supported the drugstore's request.

Beverages & More lost a bid to open a small store on Santa Cruz Avenue four years ago for similar reasons.

Walgreens representatives were not immediately available for comment on whether the chain would appeal the decision to the City Council.

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Posted by Sue
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jun 28, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Thank goodness! Thank you, Commissioners, for voting against this! Santa Cruz Avenue does not need alcohol being sold there. I think it would totally downgrade the street. Anyway, drug stores do not need to be selling alcohol, which is obviously not an item for one's health.

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Posted by Sam
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jun 28, 2011 at 1:18 pm

A victory for protectionism. Yes, direct people to the 'beautiful stores' and don't allow the public to cast their dollar votes to purchase from businesses that would sell at a discount. Can't hide forever.

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Posted by Arch Conservative
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Jun 28, 2011 at 1:38 pm

Can't Menlo Park get anything right?
The commissioners "are inappropriate and detrimental to Menlo Park's welfare." They should say something also about all of the "Middle Eastern" rug stores, that are always having "Going out of business" sales. Seems as soon as they open, there is a sale in progress.

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Posted by Ol' Homeboy
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jun 28, 2011 at 1:44 pm

I can't wait to watch the video of this week's Planning Commission meeting. A squeeked-by, split 4-3 vote should certainly be grounds for Walgreen's to appeal this decision.
Mr. O'Malley's quote: "I see this as opening the door in town to a number of other businesses, we have to draw the line somewhere" is about as "puritan" as one can get. O'Malley needs to go draw his lines where it is more important.
How about doing something that attracts new businesses to Santa Cruz Ave., or at the very least encourages the good ones to stay?
Glad to see Commissioner Kadvany had the cajones to "wryly" mock the commission's gestapo-like control over businesses that front Santa Cruz Ave. Good one.

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Posted by teetotaler
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 28, 2011 at 1:44 pm

At least a minority of the commission is reasonable. "We need to draw the line somewhere." Like, no pool halls? Strip joints? Other stores already sell liquor, so what is the big deal?

The major concern, from my perspective, was that the manager did not want to sell it. Pretty bold stance, and I hope he doesn't lose his job over it. If I were on the commission, I would have suggested he take it back to corporate. How can you make a determination when the applicant is sending mixed messages?

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Posted by WhoRUpeople
a resident of another community
on Jun 28, 2011 at 1:57 pm

What is it with Santa Cruz Avenue! You can buy booze at any one of a number of cafe's on the street. You can overdose on caffine (much more dangerous in my opinion than alcohol) at several more, and you can trip over people sitting on benches and singing and ranting at the top of their lungs. Same experience that I've seen on Castro in Mt. View, University in Palo Alto and several areas in San Francisco. But for some reason, its special when its in Menlo Park--its character--sorry, I just don't get it.

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Posted by A More Complete Story
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 28, 2011 at 2:10 pm

Good decision, incomplete article.

This article tells very little of what went on in that meeting. There was a requirement that the commission base it on a certain finding or lack of a finding, but if you watch the video, you will see that a whole lot more was discussed. Not only did the manager express reluctance to sell alcohol and that it was a decision of "corporate," the application description was completely different than the plan sheets. The plan sheets show 46-49 linear feet (depending on how you count the beer end cap) of shelf space dedicated to alcohol. The staff report and applicant project description clearly states "eighteen (18) of shelf space and ten (10) feet of cooler space." That is a huge difference. It was confirmed by staff that the plan sheets would take precedence.

Beyond the possibility of deception by the applicant, the city is full of places to buy alcohol. Just across the back parking lot there is Trader Joe's, for example. Do we need alcohol to be available at every store in town? Using the word "convenience" for the argument that it should be sold at Walgreens is such a stretch. Anyone could say it's "inconvenient" to go to more than one place for anything. Should every thing you need in your life be sold at Walgreens? If that's what people want, one stop shopping for everything in your life, then state your wishes at the downtown planning meetings coming up or move next door to a Target or Walmart.

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Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 28, 2011 at 2:11 pm

I think a good reason for denying the permit is the afternoon influx of Hillview and M-A students onto Santa Cruz, a good number of whom end up at Walgreens.

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Posted by Lurker
a resident of another community
on Jun 28, 2011 at 2:21 pm

As someone who recently moved here from the East Coast, where booze is only available at liquor stores, the sight of wine bottles at the 7-11 at the Caltrain stop never ceases to astonish me.

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Posted by good decision
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jun 28, 2011 at 2:31 pm

I am glad the Commission made this decision. There are enough nearby places where alcohol can be purchased especially now that BevMo is open. Most of us appreciate the thoughtful decision of the majority.

If staff allowed the huge discrepancy of the plans and the application, several on staff should be FIRED or DEMOTED. This is incompetence.

Like this comment
Posted by Steve Taffee
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jun 28, 2011 at 3:29 pm

I have no problem with liquor sales per se. My issue - better resolved by the management or stockholders of Walgreens - is whether or not a store that is purportedly holds the health business at their core should opt to sell alcohol, cigarettes, or other items held by the general public to have some detrimental health affects. Yes, the case agains tobacco is stronger than that against alcohol, I know. And don't get me started on all the carcinogens present in beauty supplies and other household items.

The commission was within its rights to deny the request. That's why there's a permitting process. As citizens we can change the permitting process through our representatives if we don't like it. And as stockholders of certain companies, we can also challenge the business practices of companies we own if we don't like them.

Bottom line for me: meh...

Like this comment
Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Jun 28, 2011 at 3:31 pm

Having the government involved in this matter makes about as much sense as having it involved in whether Peets can sell regular coffee as well as decaf. That is to say, none whatsoever.

Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 28, 2011 at 3:34 pm

Personally, I think there are too many eyeglasses and rug stores on Santa Cruz.

We also have TWO French restaurants ON THE SAME BLOCK!

Can the commission PLEASE do something about this? It's just not right!

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Posted by Slam Dunk
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 28, 2011 at 8:27 pm

[Post deleted. Attack on a poster.]

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Posted by neutral
a resident of another community
on Jun 28, 2011 at 9:39 pm

Hey slam dunk---before you call somebody else an idiot, learn how to spell. "you're", not "your". Sheesh! Four simple words, and you can't even spell them all correctly, or at least spell check them.

By the way, Sue is entitled to her valid opinion, obviously shared by many.

Like this comment
Posted by Dharma
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 29, 2011 at 12:30 pm

Good thing we keep the lid on wine and beer sales on our main streets - it might take shelf space away from the cigarettes. Helicopter p's, you're doing your job.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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