Residents oppose liquor sales at Oceanside’s Walmart market

OCEANSIDE — Residents say the Walmart Neighborhood Market full-service grocery store on west Mission Avenue, set to open in early 2014, is in the wrong location to sell alcohol. 

Residents question why the Walmart store has not been stopped from selling liquor, as it is located across the street from Oceanside High School.

The neighboring 99 Cent Only Store, which is not classified as a full-service grocery store, was denied a liquor license because it is within 600 feet of the high school.

“I simply think Walmart should be held to a standard and play by the rules that everyone else has to play by,” Ken Leighton, owner of Royal Dive beer and wine bar in Oceanside and columnist for The Coast News, said. “The 99 Cent (Only) Store was denied the opportunity to sell alcohol because of its proximity to the school. So why should it be any different for Walmart, which is right next door?”

Councilman Jerry Kern said the city has no objections to grocery stores selling liquor.

“It’s not a liquor store,” Kern said. “It’s a full-service grocery store.”

City Manager Peter Weiss said all full-service grocery stores include the sales of liquor. The Walmart Neighborhood Market will get its liquor license from the ABC if it is following all regulations.

“It is a grocery store and therefore the city has apparently not issued any objection to them having alcohol sales, which is the same for any other grocery type store in the city from the Ralphs and the Albertsons, to the Fresh & Easy, and Red & White Markets,” Weiss said.

Residents said they recall previous grocery stores located in the Mission Square Shopping Center selling alcohol in the 1960s and 1970s, but object to the sale of liquor at Walmart being kept below the radar.

“The City Council and the community was not alerted to Walmart’s plan to sell liquor, beer and wine,” Leighton said. “If the community had been alerted and if there was a rigorous discussion, and then if it seemed like there was a consensus that it was OK to sell malt liquor and vodka in plastic bottles here, then it would be different. But there was no such vetting.”

Another concern is that the denial of one store to sell liquor and the OK of another in the same shopping center may spell legal trouble.

“The fact that 99 Cent (Only) was denied, may trigger a lawsuit or three if Walmart gets the permit while 99 Cent (Only) did not,” Leighton said.

Kern said the ABC would decide if alcohol sales are permissible at the location.

“The city of Oceanside does not have a problem with it,” Kern said. “They need to deal with the ABC.”

Residents are also concerned increasing liquor sales will diminish the character of the beachfront neighborhood.

“Our position is that the west side of Oceanside is out of scale with other coastal cities with regards to convenience and liquor sales,” Joan Bockman, president of Oceanside Coastal Neighborhood Association, said. “One of our folks took a count and there were around 20 convenience and package liquor stores on Coast Highway in Oceanside. Many were next to residential uses.”

“The OCNA position is that we are over served with this stuff and don’t need more,” she added.

Kern focused on the Walmart store’s sales of fresh produce and the jobs it brings to the community.

“At the end of the day it’s good for Oceanside and good for the neighborhood,” Kern said. “Once it’s in people will be really excited having a store there.”

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