January 17, 2013 (El Cajon) – Councilman Gary Kendrick will introduce a measure on Tuesday, January 22 that would implement a “deemed approved” system to regulate liquor licenses n El Cajon.
“It enables a city to put a whole host of new conditions on existing liquor establishments,” Kendrick told ECM. “It even covers those grandfathered in that don’t have a conditional use permit, so we could stop a liquor store from creating a nuisance in the city.” The measure would cover all off-site liquor stores, type 20 and 21 licenses, he added.
The proposal would also allow the city to charge a fee to liquor stores to funds sting operations against alcohol sellers as asll as pay for a full-time alcohol enforcement officer.
“Right now we have an officer who spends about 20% of his time on alcohol-related crimes,” Kendrick said.
A similar ordinance enforcing tobacco sales restrictions funded stings that reduced sales of tobacco to minors from 43% to less than 1%. “It was a spectacular success,” Kendrick recalled. “If we could do that in El Cajon with serial inebriates and underage kids, that would substantially reduce the homeless problem in the city.” Homeless people with alcohol addiction would have a choice to enter treatment at the East County Transitional Living Center (which receives about $50,000 a year from the city in federal block grants) as an alternative to jail, said Kendrick, who calls it a “tough love” approach.
“They can go to jail or get into a program, and I’d much rather see them get into a program.” He added that the program is multi-faceted and includes support services for those who need other help, such as job training and education as well as breaking their addiction. “There’s a couple of hundred people living there right now and the program has turned around their lives,” Kendrick noted.
The ordinance is patterned after a deemed approved measure introduced in Oakland in 1994. “The alcohol industry immediately appealed,” said Kendrick, adding that the California Supreme Court refused to hear the case, so the law stands.
Asked how store owners could be expected to identify serial inebriates, Kendrick said the Police Department compiles a list with photos of those who have had multiple citations for public drunkness. Stores caught selling to serial inebriates or minors could face revocation of licenses.
“We tried voluntary compliance in past,” Kendrick said. “Take a walk through El Cajon and you can see it’s not working.” According to Kendrick, about 80 to 85 of the homeless in El Cajon have alcohol or drug dependency.
The ordinance is likely to face opposition from retailers selling alcohol, as well as from the alcohol industry.