News

Menlo Park City Council Council denies Willow Road gas station a permit to sell beer and wine

Neighborhood has several options for buying booze and doesn't need another, council says

The Menlo Park City Council last week denied the owners of the A&S Union 76 gas station on Willow Road a permit to sell beer and wine and operate longer hours.

The station's owners wanted to be able to sell beer and wine between 6 a.m. and 2 a.m. and operate 24 hours a day, but neither request was approved.

The Union 76 gas station at 710 Willow Road in Menlo Park is in a census tract where there are already three other locations that sell alcoholic beverages, making it harder for the business to receive a permit to sell beer and wine from California's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

California's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control governs which establishments are permitted to sell beer and wine, and has to determine if the request would offer convenience or meet community needs. Since there are already three establishments in the neighborhood that sell alcoholic beverages, the department would consider adding a fourth license within the same census tract to be "over-concentrated," according to staff.

Generally, the department looks to the Planning Commission to avoid creating an "undue concentration" of alcohol vendors if the ratio of alcohol retail licenses to population exceeds that of the average census tract within the county, or it's in an area where there is a 20% greater number of reported crimes than the county average, according to a staff report.

Other locations selling beer and wine near the Union 76 station at 710 Willow Road are at El Rancho Market at 812 Willow Road and Hacienda Super Mercado at 1933 Menalto Ave. The Willows Market at 60 Middlefield Road sells beer, wine and spirits.

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The Planning Commission previously denied the permit request in March 2020. City staff members recommended that the City Council deny the appeal of the permit request; and the council voted 4-0 vote, with Councilman Ray Mueller absent, to uphold the commission's decision.

A number of residents spoke in opposition to the permit at the appeal hearing on Aug. 31.

Resident Jeffrey Chen suggested that gas station patrons would not buy alcohol for a planned meal or event but instead to consume immediately, which could increase the risk of DUI-related accidents nearby. Resident Brian Gilmer said that the gas station "tends to attract problems" and that he's found trash in his yard including receipts from the gas station.

Gas station owner Aparna Saha and her son pushed back against the neighbors' concerns. They said that several other nearby businesses around the neighborhood have permits to sell alcohol, so it hardly seems fair to deny their request out of some concern that it would somehow be more dangerous or disruptive than selling it in other nearby locations.

"I don't think it's fair to say that (in) granting us a beer and wine license we're going to significantly cause the neighborhood to deteriorate," Saha's son said.

He added that the pandemic has roughly halved sales for the family's business at the gas station, and being permitted to sell beer and wine on the premises could help them increase their income.

"I'm not in support of giving a permit for increased hours or for alcohol sales," said Councilwoman Cecilia Taylor.

Email Staff Writer Kate Bradshaw at [email protected]

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Menlo Park City Council Council denies Willow Road gas station a permit to sell beer and wine

Neighborhood has several options for buying booze and doesn't need another, council says

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Thu, Sep 9, 2021, 11:12 am

The Menlo Park City Council last week denied the owners of the A&S Union 76 gas station on Willow Road a permit to sell beer and wine and operate longer hours.

The station's owners wanted to be able to sell beer and wine between 6 a.m. and 2 a.m. and operate 24 hours a day, but neither request was approved.

California's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control governs which establishments are permitted to sell beer and wine, and has to determine if the request would offer convenience or meet community needs. Since there are already three establishments in the neighborhood that sell alcoholic beverages, the department would consider adding a fourth license within the same census tract to be "over-concentrated," according to staff.

Generally, the department looks to the Planning Commission to avoid creating an "undue concentration" of alcohol vendors if the ratio of alcohol retail licenses to population exceeds that of the average census tract within the county, or it's in an area where there is a 20% greater number of reported crimes than the county average, according to a staff report.

Other locations selling beer and wine near the Union 76 station at 710 Willow Road are at El Rancho Market at 812 Willow Road and Hacienda Super Mercado at 1933 Menalto Ave. The Willows Market at 60 Middlefield Road sells beer, wine and spirits.

The Planning Commission previously denied the permit request in March 2020. City staff members recommended that the City Council deny the appeal of the permit request; and the council voted 4-0 vote, with Councilman Ray Mueller absent, to uphold the commission's decision.

A number of residents spoke in opposition to the permit at the appeal hearing on Aug. 31.

Resident Jeffrey Chen suggested that gas station patrons would not buy alcohol for a planned meal or event but instead to consume immediately, which could increase the risk of DUI-related accidents nearby. Resident Brian Gilmer said that the gas station "tends to attract problems" and that he's found trash in his yard including receipts from the gas station.

Gas station owner Aparna Saha and her son pushed back against the neighbors' concerns. They said that several other nearby businesses around the neighborhood have permits to sell alcohol, so it hardly seems fair to deny their request out of some concern that it would somehow be more dangerous or disruptive than selling it in other nearby locations.

"I don't think it's fair to say that (in) granting us a beer and wine license we're going to significantly cause the neighborhood to deteriorate," Saha's son said.

He added that the pandemic has roughly halved sales for the family's business at the gas station, and being permitted to sell beer and wine on the premises could help them increase their income.

"I'm not in support of giving a permit for increased hours or for alcohol sales," said Councilwoman Cecilia Taylor.

Email Staff Writer Kate Bradshaw at [email protected]

Comments

Brian
Registered user
Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 9, 2021 at 11:30 am
Brian, Menlo Park: The Willows
Registered user
on Sep 9, 2021 at 11:30 am

To clarify a little bit the neighbors had many concerns. There have been several crimes at the gas station in recent years including armed robbery and assault. There is also a problem with noise late a night with some patrons yelling and being disruptive after 11:00 PM. Trash from the convenience store is a big problem along O'Keefe street where people discard receipts, cigarette wrappers, candy wrappers, cans, etc. This gas station is in a residential neighborhood bordering one house and within 300 feet of many more houses. I would also point out that the other places selling alcohol in the neighborhood are not open 24 hours a day, they all close at 9:00 PM. The kicker however is that the gas station is still selling tobacco products that the City banned two years ago. One of the reasons the Planning Commission denied the request in March of 2020 was that they were in violation of the Menlo Park ordinance banning flavored tobacco and e-cigarettes. On the day of the City Council meeting a resident was able to purchase an e-cigarette product from the gas station convenience store in violation of that ordinance.


Ray Mueller
Registered user
Menlo Park: University Heights
on Sep 9, 2021 at 12:23 pm
Ray Mueller, Menlo Park: University Heights
Registered user
on Sep 9, 2021 at 12:23 pm

Just a point of clarification. The article indicates I was “absent”. I was excused prior to this item being called by the Mayor as I am currently rehabilitating a herniated disc in my neck. I was suffering from severe discomfort by the time this item was called late in the evening.


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