Fallbrook hearing paved way for Spring Valley Fresh and Easy
Last updated 9/20/2007 at Noon
The county’s Planning Commission hearing on a potential liquor license for the future Fresh and Easy Market in Fallbrook turned out to make matters easier for Fresh and Easy and for the Planning Commission when Fresh and Easy sought a similar resolution for a proposed Spring Valley store.
On August 10 the Planning Commission approved a determination of public necessity or convenience for the Fallbrook site which was a prerequisite for an off-sale liquor license. That hearing’s description about the Fresh and Easy Market concept and information about conditions offered for the liquor license led to the Planning Commission’s August 24 approval of the determination of public necessity or convenience for the Spring Valley site.
“By the time Spring Valley rolled around a couple of weeks later, the Commission already understood all the issues,” said attorney Bruce Evans, who represented Fresh and Easy at both hearings.
Evans also noted that Fresh and Easy had been working with the Sheriff’s Department on conditions for the Fallbrook license. “That was very helpful in the Spring Valley hearing,” he said. “The Sheriff’s Department was very supportive.”
Fresh and Easy Market has applied for a Type 21, or general off-sale, liquor license for both the Fallbrook store which will be located in the 1100 block of South Main Avenue and the Spring Valley site in the 9600 block of Campo Road. The state’s Business and Professions Code stipulates that if the state Alcoholic Beverage Commission determines that an “undue concentration” exists in the vicinity of the application premises the license is to be denied unless the local jurisdiction determines that public necessity or convenience would be served by issuing the liquor license.
Board of Supervisors Policy I-121 stipulates the criteria to be used in a determination of public necessity or convenience. The Sheriff’s Department must determine that approval or conditional approval will not negatively influence criminal activity including loitering, vandalism, public drunkenness, illegal drug use and sales, theft, and violent behavior. The county’s Department of Planning and Land Use must determine that the retail outlet is compatible with community character and consider factors such as the number and proximity of other establishments selling alcohol, proximity to schools and playgrounds or other facilities serving young people, proximity to residential neighborhoods, and whether the store provides a wide range of desirable goods and services or a unique type of goods or services.
In both the Fallbrook and Spring Valley cases, the Department of Planning and Land Use denied the Fresh and Easy liquor license request, and in both cases the determination that public convenience or necessity would not be served by a liquor license for Fresh and Easy was appealed to the Planning Commission. Fresh and Easy describes itself as a neighborhood market, which is neither a convenience store nor a supermarket, and during the August 10 hearing the concept of a Fresh and Easy market was described to the Planning Commission.
“The Planning Commission, since they were aware of the issues, it did make Spring Valley easier,” Evans said.
The county can only approve a resolution of public necessity or convenience and cannot impose conditions upon a liquor license. The Alcoholic Beverage Commission can impose conditions, and Fresh and Easy has worked with the Sheriff’s Department to develop a list of proposed conditions for both the Fallbrook and Spring Valley stores. An identical list of 12 proposed conditions (counting installation of digital security cameras and maintaining surveillance footage for at least 30 days as a single condition) was provided to the Planning Commission in writing prior to the Spring Valley hearing.
In addition to the description of a Fresh and Easy store and the arguments that grocery stores do not attract alcohol-related criminal elements to the extent of liquor stores or lounges, the Fallbrook hearing also noted that focusing commercial businesses in a specific area can lead to exceeding the number of off-sale liquor licenses stipulated in the state formula.
No date has been set for either Alcoholic Beverage Commission hearing. “We’re still very early in the process, I would say several months away,” Evans said.
Fresh and Easy has the luxury of waiting for the Fallbrook license, since it will take time to convert the former Do-It Center store into a grocery store suitable for Fresh and Easy standards. “Everything is going well,” Evans said.