I wanted to thank Josh for allowing me to bring to light what may seem like a very technical and inconsequential issue in San Jose that is actually a very important problem that impacts the lives of many owners and employees of small businesses and residents who live in neighborhoods that are saturated with stores that sell off-site hard alcohol and other spirits.
Specifically, the City of San Jose’s troubling policy of approving essentially all off-site alcohol sales permit requests in areas that have been deemed "over-concentrated" by the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) as long as the applicant is a big "full service" grocery store like Walmart. Case in point, the city recently approved a liquor license for a Walmart neighborhood market at 4080 Stevens Creek Boulevard even though ABC deemed the area over-concentrated with liquor licenses. And now, the City is looking to rubber stamp yet another request by Walmart to obtain an off-site alcohol sales permit at their location in the Westgate Shopping Center; again, this area is also deemed over-concentrated with liquor licenses by ABC and experiences a fair amount of crime.
Residents, neighbors and merchants have come out in big numbers opposing these alcohol permits in their neighborhoods because they are rightfully worried about the increase in crime and decrease in property values that typically occurs in neighborhoods that are over-saturated with off-site hard alcohol sales. In fact, the San Jose Police Department has stated at public hearings for these permits that an increase in hard alcohol sales in a community results in an increase in crime; which in turn results in decreased property values and other various problems.
Despite this fact, the planning commission and city council consistently continues to approve off-site alcohol sales permits for stores like Walmart regardless if the area is in a high crime area and/or is over-concentrated with liquor licenses. However, if the store requesting an off-site permit is a convenience store or stand-alone liquor store, the commission and council have decided that these small mom and pop businesses are not worthy of the same treatment. In fact, the City's policy is to deny any off-site alcohol sales permits for small businesses that are not "full service grocery" as they are all grouped together as attracting crime and mischief which may be the case for some but certainly not all. Such a blanket policy is both unfair and reeks of greedy tax revenue favoritism of big businesses like Walmart over our small mom and pop businesses that are often run and owned by real people and employees who actually live in San Jose.
Furthermore, when asked what actually constitutes "full service grocery" the city apparently does not even have a working definition or required sales percentage of what that means. So if only 4% of Walmart’s floor space is "grocery" they are still considered full service grocery by the City even if 20% of their floor space is alcohol sales and the rest, other goods. However, if a convenience store has the same percentages they are "a liquor store" and under the city's policy will not be given any new off-site alcohol sales permits because they aren't Walmart essentially and don't generate as much tax revenue for the City.
This unfair treatment of our small businesses over big box stores like Walmart and the approval of off-site alcohol licenses in areas that are already over-concentrated with off-site sales permits and/or are in high crime areas has to stop. This short sighted and greed influenced planning on the City's part will have the long term effect of pushing out mom and pop businesses that have been around for decades while also continuing to increase crime and decrease property values as more and more off-site alcohol permits are granted above and well beyond what should be allowed. The city can start to rectify this problem by denying Walmart’s request for an off-site alcohol sales permit as the Westgate Shopping Center which is already “over-concentrated” with off-site alcohol permits.
If you are interested in more information or updates on this issue or would simply like to comment, please send an email to keepwestgateshoppingcentersafe
A Concerned Resident