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Controversial new rules aimed at reducing the number of beer, wine and liquor merchants in Fresno are on the City Council’s agenda Thursday.

Though the proposed ordinance has generated considerable business and community interest in recent weeks, the vote is scheduled to occur without discussion as part of the council’s routine consent calendar.

Effort to Reduce Liquor Store ‘Saturation’

Called the Responsible Neighborhood Market Act, Fresno City Council president Miguel Arias believes it’s the best way for Fresno to cut down on the amount of alcohol licenses that have saturated certain parts of the city more than others.

Arias also believes by limiting the amount of alcohol licenses in the city it will drive up the value of all existing licenses. He believes that will entice some of the establishments that are causing many problems will be incentivized to sell their license to someone else that will do a better job.

But others disagree and believe it will actually keep grocery stores from the ability to afford a license that could range from $150,000-$300,00 from coming to town while at the same time benefiting current operators that may be causing the most problems.

Existing Liquor Stores Exempted

In Thursday’s online agenda, a PowerPoint presentation walks councilmembers through the process of how the city has arrived at this point.

Experts point to a key passage in the PowerPoint that they say clearly illustrates how the act falls short: “Existing Businesses – No change to current operations including single sale.”

A PowerPoint slide from a City Council presentation defining the businesses that would be required to comply with proposed alcohol sales rules. (City of Fresno)

Land Use Expert:  Two-Pronged Attack Needed

“I think the downside is that it kind of locks in what we already have. The whole point of this ordinance should be, and rightly so, is to remove what we have now. The bad actors.”Land use consultant Nick Yovino, Jr. 

Land use consultant Nick Yovino, Jr. has been following the city’s actions closely. He spoke with GV Wire℠ over Zoom to express his concerns.

I think the downside is that it kind of locks in what we already have,” says Yovino Jr. “The whole point of this ordinance should be, and rightly so, is to remove what we have now. The bad actors.”

Yovino worries the unintended consequences of what the council is doing now will have an adverse affect on trying to attract small grocery stores to the food deserts of Fresno.

“In my opinion, the ordinance needs to be written in a way that will encourage new places to come in and replace the old model that we have now that has not served our city well,” said Yovino Jr.

“You have to have a two pronged attack,” explains Yovino Jr. “You have to have to clean up what we’re doing now, which I am all for. I think we also need to find a way to get these other guys in line. They’ve not served our community well over the last 40, 50 years or however long they’ve been there.”

Yovino Jr. believes there’s an option that’s worked well for other cities like Oakland and Vallejo, something called a “deemed approved ordinance.”

Deemed approved” literally refers to the businesses which are already legally operating at the time a new ordinance regulating local alcohol sales is adopted.  In particular, deemed approved ordinances are intended to give cities more enforcement tools against grandfathered businesses, including the ability to “revoke” a business’s right to exist.

“In one year the city of Vallejo reduced their calls for service from 2,500 to 1,100 by using their deemed approved ordinance,” says Yovino Jr. “They were able to target the individual operators that were causing the majority of the problem.”

Yovino Jr. wrote a letter to the City Council expressing his concerns.

Letters For and Against

The Fresno City Clerks’ office released and posted several letters showing the division amongst members of the public ahead of Thursday’s council meeting. Here is a snapshot:

Bill Haar writes, “I am very disappointed to see that the Responsible Neighborhood Act is still on consent with no opportunity for public discussion. My neighbors and I strongly oppose this ordinance.”

Sandra Giudici wrote, “The unintended consequences may lead to the elimination of grocery stores and neighborhood markets in my neighborhood.”

composite of 7 Fresno City Council mug shots on a laptop symbolizing online meetings during COVID-19

Fresno City Council Members set to vote on the ‘Responsible Neighborhood Market Act.’ Top (left to right): Esmeralda Soria, Mike Karbassi, Miguel Arias, Paul Caprioglio Bottom (left to right): Luis Chavez, Garry Bredefeld, Nelson Esparza. (GV Wire/Alexis DeSha)

Resident Kathleen Bates writes, “We urge you to support Responsible Neighborhood Market Act and all of the amendments proposed on September 24th, a law that is designed to clean up Fresno’s act, to make communities safer, and protect children.”

Jennifer Hanks writes in part, “Though the intentions are good, there must be amendments made for neighborhood markets as opposed to corner liquor stores.”

Lynn Ha says, “I’m a resident of Fresno with children. Please support the Agenda item#2-O (ID 20-001363) and approve the Responsible Neighborhood Market Act.”

The state of California’s recommendation for liquor store licenses is one for every 2,500 residents. In Fresno, it’s one liquor license for every 1,000 residents. In south Fresno, it’s one per 500 residents. (City of Fresno)

2 Responses

  1. Bernard Rieux

    Emily Cameron should make a website tracking how closely Republican Councilmember Mike Karbassi votes in accordance with Darius Assemi’s personal position on every issue.

    Reply
  2. Willy

    1 size doesn’t fit all, there are liquor stores, there are grocery / combo liquor stores, there is restaurants that serve alcohol, in Arias district my wife and I have had the pleasure of attending many huge Quinceneras where alcohol is overflowing . What Arias is proposing is not approved by the community of Fresno but rather by his select beneficiaries ( CBOs and NGOs) lets be honest here, it was kept under wraps while Fresnans deal with closures of our economy and businesses that Miguel & co have kept shuttered.

    Let Arias make decisions for HIS district but he has no authority to dictate to other zipcodes. There is no reason they cannot dely this vote so the taxpayers can all have a discussion. The liquorstores, markets, developers, restaurants and liquor distributors. They are part of collaboration or does Miguel Arias & Co. want to sneak in another ordinance or act while we taxpayers are conveniently sequestered with Covid-19. No wonder Arias pushed hard in February 2020 for a private
    security entrance only for city administrators from City Manager to mayor to use. Arias started from the get-go to make radical controversial unorthodox changes even chipping away at our Second Amendment Rights to forcing pot dispensaries in every district as Arias believes it will generate tax revenue.

    Luckily the pot dispensaries has been delayed pending further discussions of addiction, how DUI s would be measured for cannabis and other important factors to rolling out a new initiative.
    Shouldn’t the same considerations be given for this Responsible Neighborhood Market Act? Lots to consider like how people will go to surrounding cities to purchase booze.

    Voters are waking up, poor choices made by ill-informed power hungry council members have consequences. If Arias is arrogant enough to believe he should run again in 2022 after his professional shortcomings and horrific interactions with community leaders like Police Chief Hall he will be met with strong well supported opponents.

    Let’s see if he can stand working with Dyers administration. Arias has made it known his hatred and contempt for Dyer and what he calls ” Trumpsters who live north of Shaw” funny thing about dictators they leave a trail of enemies, and never have a long career. As Miguel Arias laughs how he has destroyed the businesses in Fresno he should keep a rear view mirror handy . No wonder city of Mendota and FUSD pushed Miguel out the door. Taking a $40,000 cut in pay at City Hall maybe the kick backs from his ” groups” pays off the shortfall

    Reply

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