Fresno County will add to its inventory of places selling beer, wine and hard liquor, as the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control awarded six new licenses by lottery Tuesday from 40 hopeful applicants.
Jason Montgomery, supervising agent in charge of ABC’s Fresno district office, spun a wire cage filled with 40 pill bottles. Each bottle, in turn, held the name of an applicant who had already ponied up nearly $14,000 to enter the drawing for one of the precious Type 21 licenses to sell alcohol at their retail store.
A Type 21 license is called an off-sale general license, allowing businesses to sell beer, wine and hard liquor for off-site consumption. Five of the six licensees chosen in Tuesday’s drawing already have Type 20 licenses to sell beer and wine, but not hard liquor.
Rajinder Kaur, who with her husband Jaswant Singh own the Grant Market at Shields and Grantland avenues west of Fresno, have sold beer and wine at their small store since they bought it in late 2013. “But people want liquor,” Singh said after their store was the second winner pulled from the tumbling cage.
This was the second year in which Kaur and Singh entered the ABC drawing. “If we wanted to go buy a license (being sold by an existing licensee), it would cost $85,000, maybe $90,000,” Singh said. “This is much cheaper if you win; this costs $13,800 max.”
The other new off-sale licensees are in Kerman, Orange Cove, Selma and Coalinga. Montgomery also presided over a drawing from among 25 applicants for only two licenses being awarded in Tulare County.
Each year, the state determines how many new liquor licenses will be allocated on a county-by-county basis, based on population growth. In addition to the six new off-sale licenses for Fresno County, ABC was offering 25 on-sale licenses for bars and restaurants, but only received 15 applications, so no drawing was needed.
Under the state’s general guidelines, cities and counties can have one off-sale liquor license for every 2,500 residents. In Fresno County, that would allow for about 400 licensed beer, wine or liquor stores to serve the county’s 995,975 residents. But Fresno County has 936 licensees, according to information from ABC – more than double the guideline. Regulators have the flexibility to exceed the guidelines if applicants can show that public convenience or necessity is served by approving more licenses in a community or county, said John Carr, an ABC spokesman.
A Bee analysis this summer determined that the city of Fresno has the highest concentration of retail stores licensed by the state to sell beer, wine and liquor among California’s 10 largest cities – more stores per 10,000 residents than Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose or the statewide average. ABC records show that Fresno has 503 off-sale retail licenses, plus 486 on-sale licenses for bars, taverns and restaurants.
The abundance of liquor outlets, however, was not among the factors that contributed to Men’s Health magazine’s placement of Fresno atop its 2015 list of America’s drunkest cities – the third time in a decade that the “honor” had been bestowed on the city. The ranking was based on national statistics on liver disease, self-admitted binge drinkers, DUI crashes/deaths and the “harshness” of an area’s DUI penalties.