EZ Mart manager Marco Serna is trying hard to follow Fresno city rules, but he says new restrictions on the amount of advertising that can be placed in storefront windows have made it harder for him to run his business.
The city’s new development code, adopted in December, reduces window and outdoor advertising for alcohol and tobacco retailers like gas stations, convenience and liquor stores. No more than 15 percent of the square footage of each window visible to the public can be filled with an advertisement – 25 percent for tobacco-only stores.
“I’m not sure I can show what I sell and what prices I sell them at if I can’t use the store that I sell products out of to advertise,” said Serna, who has worked 2 1/2 years at the east-central Fresno gas and convenience store at Cedar and Shields avenues.
At a City Hall news conference on Wednesday afternoon, Councilman Oliver Baines and Fresno County health and youth advocates highlighted the new policy created to protect the health, safety and welfare of Fresno residents ahead of an educational outreach effort. The city of Selma adopted a storefront signage ordinance last July.
“Youth in the city of Fresno are exposed to saturation of alcohol ads on their way to school,” said Janet Salcedo, a volunteer with Youth Leadership Institute and the Southeast Neighborhood Transformation team that helped pitch the new code to Baines and the Fresno City Council.
“Their marketing is clearly targeting youth and encouraging unhealthy decision-making when it comes to alcohol, tobacco and sugary drinks,” Salcedo said.
Their regulations allow for no advertising for us. We like to advertise the things we sell and the deals we have on them.
EZ Mart manager Marco Serna
In a 2013 survey, 70 percent of the stores in Fresno County advertised alcohol, tobacco and sugary drinks on storefront windows and the outside of the stores, said David Luchini, assistant director of the Fresno County Department of Public Health. Only 7 percent of stores surveyed displayed advertising for healthy foods and beverages such as milk and water, fruits and vegetables.
“Store owners are critical partners to help ensure that our community has access to affordable healthy foods and beverages with limited marketing of unhealthy products,” Luchini said.
The city code department is in charge of enforcement. Youth leaders will partner with the Fresno Chapter of the American Petroleum and Convenience Store Association to educate store owners about the new restrictions.
Here are other details about the code, which went into effect Jan. 3:
▪ All inside and outside signage visible from the sidewalk, but not physically attached to the windows or doors, are included in the 15 percent signage limit.
▪ Signs required by law do not count toward the 15 percent.
▪ Ads and signage on windows and clear doors must be placed in a way that allows law enforcement to have a clear view of the inside.
▪ Off-site signs tacked, nailed, posted, pasted or glued to trees, poles, stakes, fences, trailers or other structures are prohibited.
Serna feels the city is targeting specific areas of the community to do a little cleanup. He doesn’t think his small window signs that have a beer logo and the price is directed toward kids.
The EZ Mart has about 10 windows, set up high on top of concrete walls. The large window in front of the cash register had a big cling ad for energy drinks that stuck to the window. The smaller windows together had two or three signs showing prices on beer. There was also a neon Lottery sign on top of the double doors.
“(The city) said that was too much,” Serna said. He removed the signs and hung some inside the building about a foot away from the windows.
“I’m not looking for somebody to come and yell at me and take my banner down,” Serna said. “Their regulations allow for no advertising for us. We like to advertise the things we sell and the deals we have on them.”
Correction: Janet Salcedo was misidentified in an earlier version.