OAKLAND, Calif. -- Supermarkets and other retailers helped halt a city ordinance here that would have imposed performance standards upon retailers who sell alcoholic beverages.
In a decision with broad implications for retailers who operate in California, the controversial ordinance was stopped in Alameda County Superior Court last month. Similar ordinances have been cropping up throughout the state, according to the California Beverage Retailer Coalition, formed to fight the regulatory trend.
The Oakland ordinance would have held retailers responsible for the commission of local crimes linked to alcohol abuse. Under the ordinance, a retailer would have lost its right to sell alcoholic beverages if there were repeated criminal or nuisance activities anywhere in the store's vicinity or neighborhood, said Renee Wasserman, an attorney with Donahue, Gallagher, Woods & Wood, representing the retail coalition.
This didn't sit well with the retail community, according to Don Beaver, chairman of the coalition and also president of the California Grocers Association, Sacramento. "If the Oakland police department cannot control crime on its streets, how are retailers supposed to?"
Beaver said the coalition will continue to fight against cities blaming retailers for things they can't control. He told SN that similar ordinances have been passed or are being considered by more than 90 cities. Next on the hit list are the cities of Fresno and Santa Cruz.
Oakland, meanwhile, can appeal the court's decision to strike down the ordinance, but Beaver said that compromise is a more likely scenario.
"There are indications that they will sit down with retailers and try to come up with a workable ordinance that everybody can live with. And that's what we've been after them to try to do," he said.
While it appears all Oakland retailers will not be scapegoated, the problem of some stores ignoring state alcohol laws is one retailers still need to have addressed.
"We don't want the problem alcoholic beverage retailer out there -- and that's grocery, liquor stores, service stations . . . whatever," he explained.
"We don't want to support them if they are a rotten apple; we want them out of there just as bad as everyone else, because they're the ones who have drawn all of this down on everybody. We want to work with the city on a way they can go after the guy who continues to sell to minors and to cause problems that are within his control."