Word on the Street: Fresno convenience store hopes to gain beer, wine license

Owners of the 7-Eleven franchise store at Shaw and Maroa avenues in northwest Fresno want a state license for the sale of beer and wine.
Owners of the 7-Eleven franchise store at Shaw and Maroa avenues in northwest Fresno want a state license for the sale of beer and wine.

At most 7-Eleven stores, it’s no big deal for a customer to pick up a bag of chips or some beef jerky when they pop in for a cold six-pack of beer.

It’s a different story, however, at the 7-Eleven franchise at the corner of Shaw and Maroa avenues in northwest Fresno. That particular store doesn’t have an off-sale license to sell beer and wine. And franchise owners Tom and Debbie Sharp say that is a “huge handicap” to the business they’ve run for two years.

“We not only lose out on beer sales, we lose out on other sales that people would make, too,” Debbie Sharp said. “People will pick up chips or snacks, but when they see there’s no beer or wine, we watch them put everything down and leave.”

The Sharps and 7-Eleven Inc. have applied to the state Bureau of Alcoholic Beverage Control for their off-sale license. It’s the second time for which the store has sought a state license; in 2012, an earlier application was withdrawn after opposition from neighbors. By that time, however, the store was already under construction and 7-Eleven had signed a 20-year lease.

This time around, Sharp said the state is waiting for a blessing by the Fresno County Board of Supervisors, who will hold a public hearing on the application Tuesday.

“It has never been our intention to make alcohol our main ingredient,” Tom Sharp said. “Our business model is not to be a liquor store.” Instead, Sharp said he sees the business more as a neighborhood or corner store “where you can get the basics, like milk and bread. … I think that’s the direction that the convenience store industry needs to go back to.”

That said, “it’s a convenience store, and it’s an inconvenience when customers come in looking for beer or wine and can’t get it,” Sharp added. A liquor license “is not necessary, but it’s extremely helpful … because you can expect 50 to 100 percent in extra sales. That facet would be helpful to our local business.”

Neighborhood concerns could again be a bone of contention. “We’re getting a lot of emails and letters that we’re going over now expressing concern,” said Fresno County Supervisor Andreas Borgeas, whose district includes the store. “Geographically, it’s on Shaw Avenue, which is a major commercial thoroughfare, but it’s also at the edge of a residential area” and a gateway to the Old Fig Garden neighborhood, he added.

Borgeas said he hopes to learn from the state bureau how many businesses already have licenses for off-site beer and wine sales in the area. “I want to hear from them how many establishments are recommended in an area and if we’re oversaturated.”