Fresno Planning Commission OKs Alcohol at Hayes-Shaw

POST-HEARING UPDATE:

The Planning Commission reached a split decision on whether it should allow two proposed Johnny Quik convenience stores to sell alcohol Wednesday night.

City staff had recommended denials at both locations: Shaw and Hayes avenues in northwest Fresno and Jensen Avenue and Highway 99 on the city’s southern end.

Instead, the commission approved the Shaw and Hayes site and denied the other. Both decisions came on 7-0 votes.

Developer George Beal operates more than a dozen stores in the Fresno-Clovis area. He wanted to expand but had to overcome resistance from the city, which is concerned with the over-saturation of alcohol sellers in a given area.

Commissioners echoed staff’s concerns about the over-saturation of sellers. City staff said that the ratio should be one license for every 1,075 people. That would mean seven in the census tract that includes Shaw and Hayes (the city says there are eight current licenses; an online map from the state Department of Alcohol Beverage Control shows seven).

The Commission approved Beal’s northwest Fresno proposal. Some commissioners appeared swayed by the fact that Beal had to close one of his stores near Herndon Avenue and Highway 99 because of High Speed Rail construction.

Beal noted during the hearing that there were no objections from neighbors. Neither the Fresno Police Department nor Central Unified School District lodged objections.

He also received support. Clay Gilpin from the Fresno County Economic Development Corp. urged the commission to grant the license because Beal had lost his prior site because of High Speed Rail. Pamela Parr of Continental Field Services, which handles acquisitions for High Speed Rail, made the same argument.

Commissioner Kathryn Bray asked Beal about how vital alcohol sales were to Johnny Quik stores. Beal answered that although projected sales are only 3%, they are important to the overall business model.

But when it came to the Jensen and Highway 99 proposal, the commission said no. Commissioners did not buy Beal’s argument that a more traveler-friendly convenience store was needed there. They also rejected his notion that being able to sell alcohol would provide competition to others in the area.

Bill Bunnell of the Service Station Franchisees of America for the Central Valley opposed the alcohol license.  He noted how tough it is to find a reliable a security company to keep things in order.

Beal said he would not operate without the alcohol license.

“We are going to meet with the council member to see if we can appeal,” Beal told GV Wire. That site is in Councilman Oliver Baines’ district.

Original Story Published Wednesday, Aug. 16:

George Beal hopes to turn an empty lot in northwest Fresno into a convenience store to serve an isolated area. Near the massive slides of the Island Water Park, Beal wants to develop the southeast corner of Shaw and Hayes avenues into a Johnny Quik convenience store.

His ambitions don’t end there. Beal, who has a hand in the operations of 14 Johnny Quik Food Stores, is pitching another Johnny Quik for Jensen Avenue and Highway 99.

But both projects are meeting resistance from city of Fresno staff.

City planners are concerned that the proposed stores would exceed the number of alcohol retailers recommended for their respective neighborhoods by the state Department of Alcohol Beverage Control.  The planners have recommended against approving the projects with licenses to sell alcohol for off-site consumption.

The Fresno Planning Commission is scheduled to hold hearings on both locations tonight (Wednesday, Aug. 16) at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

Liquor licenses have become a hot topic in Fresno. According to a recent Fresno Bee study, culling numbers from the state ABC, Fresno has the most alcohol seller licenses per capita among the 10 largest cities in California at 9.2.

GV Wire met with Beal at his Johnny Quik location in Clovis at Temperance & Highway 99. He feels he is serving a need with both proposals.

“If they deny this operation, they are not really doing justice for the people in that neighborhood. There is alcohol available. It’s a small portion of what we do,” Beal said. “On the west side of 99, there are no sit-down restaurants on Shaw Avenue. We would market Chevron gasoline. We usually have two ATM machines. West of 99 on Shaw, there are no banks. It think the demand for our services are great out there.”.

According to Beal’s estimates, real estate taxes would go up from $600 to $130,000 a year. The site would employ up to 100 people once fully built out.

But, city staff says there are eight active licenses in that area — one too many. That is inconsistent with state numbers, which say seven. There is an inactive license and it is Beal’s Johnny Quik that used be on Golden State Boulevard and Herndon Avenue. That store was forced to relocate because of High Speed Rail.

City staff is also making the argument to reject the proposed Johnny Quik at Jensen and Highway 99. According to the police department, it is a high crime area. The police department is asking that certain conditions be imposed on the store such as limiting the sale of certain types of alcohol, restricting  sales to 10 a.m.-10 p.m., and using a security guard and security cameras.

The city says there are five more licenses than that area is zoned for.

Beal disagrees: “All of that stuff was built over 45 years ago. They are truck stops that are not for our type of services. Highway 99 and Jensen Avenue carry 143,000 cars a day. I don’t know if you can use that census tract scenario for determining what should be in that area.”

He sees a double-standard in who gets a license and who doesn’t.

“Denying a location because of the alcohol issue is not fair, especially when they say buildings over 10,000 square feet are exempt,” Beal said. “Supermarkets are exempt from this particular issue. Why are they exempt? If you do the crime statistics, supermarkets have a tremendous amount of crime. They may not get robbed that often, but their parking lot is burglarized; people are attacked; there are a lot of issues with supermarket parking lots. With our particular facilities, there is very little crime. I know they say there is, but statistics do not back that up.”

Beal says if he is not allowed to sell alcohol, people will just get it at another store.

Beal has donated thousands of dollars to current elected officials, but he says the campaign contributions should not influence the eventual decision, should it go to the city council.

“No, I don’t think that really has an effect on it. Donations give you an opportunity to speak to the people you support. Hopefully we have a like mind as to what we do as far as business goes. It gives you a chance to talk to them,” Beal said.

The planning commission will hear both proposals tonight beginning at 6 p.m.

CORRECTION: George Beal corrected the property taxes paid on the property at Hayes and Shaw avenues from the $600 he told GV Wire to $6,000 in his testimony at the Fresno Planning Commission.

About The Author

David is a familiar name in Fresno journalism, working as a producer, writer and assignment editor for various radio and TV stations. He has covered the Super Bowl, NBA Finals, UFC, Fresno State and many political campaigns.   David earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications and Political Science from the University of Michigan. He and his wife Michelle have their hands full at home with three little ones. Originally from the Bay Area, David is a diehard Giants fan. Contact: dtaub@gvwire.com; Phone: 559-492-4037

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