Some Fresno leaders want to crack down on liquor stores. But businesses force delay

Where are Fresno’s liquor stores?

70 percent of sit-down restaurants licensed for a full bar in Fresno are located north of Shaw Avenue, but 70 percent of liquor stores are located south of Shaw.
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70 percent of sit-down restaurants licensed for a full bar in Fresno are located north of Shaw Avenue, but 70 percent of liquor stores are located south of Shaw.

The Fresno City Council is postponing for one week a vote on a proposal to crack down on the number of liquor stores.

Small-business owners requested Wednesday morning additional time to review the policy and clarify details, and the three council members who sponsored the policy — Miguel Arias, Luis Chavez and Nelson Esparza — agreed.

Chavez hopes the extra time will help all involved parties — such as youth groups, faith organizations and business owners — reach a 100 percent agreement.

“I want to thank the youth group, faith-based organizations and small business owners for working with us,” he said. “We are close to an agreement. This will be a great accomplishment for the youth in our city, especially communities saturated with liquor licenses and smoke shops.

“A one week postponement will allow the city to clarify any misinformation or vagueness as to how we will implement the limitations of liquor licenses within our city,” he said.

The proposal now is scheduled for a vote at 3:30 p.m. May 2.

The three council members proposed the legislation to cap the number of liquor licenses issued in Fresno. The item was scheduled to be heard at Thursday’s regular city council meeting.

Under the proposal, any business that wants a new license must buy one or more licenses and surrender at least one existing license. Permits granted by the city would expire, and store owners would have to apply for renewal. The legislation also would create an inspection program to ensure existing stores that sell alcohol are meeting rules for advertising and selling single-serving alcoholic beverages.

Fresno has more licenses than recommended by the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, by a long shot. Most are in south Fresno.

Chavez said on Wednesday that the American Petroleum and Convenience Store Association mostly supports the proposed rules, but he’d like to clear up any vagueness and get the entire council’s support.

“The part they need clarity on, is how will this affect existing businesses that the city gave a bunch of (conditional use permits) and liquor licenses in the last 20 years,” Chavez said. “That’s the main problem they have. They’re not corporate millionaires. They’re local, small mom-and-pop store owners who work 90 hours a week and spent their livelihood on this.”

Andy Chhikara, the president of the local APCA, said his members hope to see some changes regarding restrictions on selling single containers of alcohol, and treating certain stores the same way as corporate stores like Walgreens, Rite Aid and Dollar General.

This story will be updated.

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Brianna Calix covers politics and investigations for The Bee, where she works to hold public officials accountable and shine a light on issues that deeply affect residents’ lives. She previously worked for The Bee’s sister paper, the Merced Sun-Star, and earned her bachelor’s degree from Fresno State.