Hoping to slow the exodus of big-name grocery stores from San Francisco while also encouraging them to open shop in poor neighborhoods, The City is considering altering restrictions on alcohol sales for new stores.
In 2004, The City froze alcohol sales in five neighborhoods — including parts of the Tenderloin, Bayview-Hunters Point, the Mission and the upper and lower Haight areas — as the number of liquor stores and bars in those areas were contributing to drug trafficking, public drunkenness and other safety issues, officials said.
As a result, any new establishments requiring liquor permits — including grocery stores — have been unable to open in those neighborhoods. Big-name grocery stores such as Albertsons and Cala Foods have also closed shop in The City over the last two years, leaving some residents without a local grocery store.
In May, Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier introduced legislation that would exempt grocery stores larger than 5,000 square feet from the ban.
While the measure has attracted overwhelming support from the San Francisco Department of Public Health and service agencies that represent the neighborhoods involved, some have said the measure is a loophole to allow more alcohol sales in the communities where alcoholism is rampant.
“The Tenderloin desperately needs a grocery store, but it doesn’t need any more liquor licenses,” said Earl Rogers, of the San Francisco Rescue Mission.
To address the concerns, Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval on Monday introduced an amendment to Alioto-Pier’s proposed measure that would make it illegal for any new grocery stores to sell fortified wines, including malt beverages with more than 5.7 percent alcohol and wines with more than 15 percent alcohol.
Under the amendment, which will be discussed at a public hearing next week, the stores would also be prohibited from selling alcohol in containers smaller than 600 milligrams, such as the small liquor bottles sold on airplanes.
“The original restrictions in commercial areas were meant to prevent acceleration of alcoholism in blighted communities,” Sandoval said. “But these communities suffer from the lack of quality shopping. I think we’re largely addressing the social illnesses and gaining the economic benefit.”
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