There are already four places to buy beer and wine near the intersection of Bullard Avenue and Figarden Drive in northwest Fresno. Now get ready for one more.
A new 24-hour AM/PM store with fuel pumps — and a liquor license — won approval Thursday from the Fresno City Council to build on the vacant southwest corner of the intersection. Councilman Steve Brandau, who represents northwest Fresno, was joined in voting for the project by council colleagues Garry Bredefeld, Luis Chavez and Esmeralda Soria. Council President Clint Olivier abstained.
The vote overrides the recommendation of the city’s planning staff, who urged denial of the permit needed for property owners Sandy and Surina Mann to secure a license from the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control allowing the sale of beer and wine for off-site consumption. The Manns said that without the off-sale liquor license and the volume of sales it would generate, they would not be able to move forward with the project.
Besides the AM/PM store with eight gasoline pumps, the property will also have a fast-food restaurant with a drive-thru lane and a small retail building.
About 30 people opposing the store showed up, many wearing red T-shirts emblazoned with an image of a crossed-out beer can and the slogan, “Save the Loop — No 24-hour AM/PM.” More than a dozen people — including some connected with a Shell gasoline station and mini-mart that also sells alcohol across the street at the southeast corner and owners of other nearby liquor stores — argued that allowing AM/PM at the corner would be harmful to their businesses.
“It’s going to take sales from the businesses that are already there; it’s going to cannibalize it,” said Gwen Burt, who owns the property on which the Shell station sits.
The Rev. Darrell Regensberg of the Lifeway Baptist Church on Bullard just east of Figarden said his main concern was about the addition of another alcohol place in the immediate vicinity and not its 24-hour operation. He said his church grounds are frequently littered with beer cans and other debris from people who buy alcohol nearby and then drink it there. “We see the people that alcohol destroys,” he said. “The gas doesn’t destroy, the food doesn’t destroy. The alcohol destroys.”
City codes generally forbid new businesses with liquor licenses to be established within 500 feet of another alcohol licensee. Already operating at or near the intersection — and within 500 feet of the property — are the Shell station and mini-mart, as well as Mann’s Liquor on the northwest corner and a Walgreens drug store on the northeast corner. A few hundred feet farther to the northeast is another liquor store, MGA Liquor and Deli.
State guidelines state that the census tract in which the property lies should have no more than 10 off-sale licenses; this tract already has 14, but many are along Shaw Avenue, about a mile to the south and include larger retailers such as Winco Foods, Costco and Walmart.
But the codes also allow for exceptions: if the police department doesn’t object to the license, if alcohol sales are incidental to the business and for public convenience. Brandau cited all three in his support for the store.
“We live under capitalism,” Brandau said. “We can’t scrap a whole system of competition and capitalism” for fear that a new store would hurt business.
“It’s not my place to stand in the way,” he added. “I think it will be a valuable use for that piece of property.”
The council’s approval mirrors action taken by the city’s Planning Commission in July, including a condition that all liquor sales at the new store end at midnight.
It’s likely to take several months for the Manns to get approval for their building plans from the city; during that time, their application for the off-sale liquor license will be considered by the state.
Tim Sheehan: 559-441-6319, @TimSheehanNews