ABC Appeals Board says it has no power
On December 1, 2016, the California Alcoholic Beverage Control Appeals Board met in San Francisco to consider the appeal of the license granted to WinCo Foods at 2300 Watt Avenue to sell off-premise alcoholic beverages. As readers may recall, the location has an over-concentration of such to-go alcohol licenses and is in a high-crime area and thus could not qualify for a license from the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC). According to state law, however, a license could be issued if the the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors found justification via a Public Convenience or Necessity (PCN) hearing. In December of 2014 the Supervisors held a PCN hearing to consider the request for the store's alcohol license. At that hearing, against considerable public testimony asserting it was already very convenient to purchase to-go alcohol in the community and so yet another off-sale license was unnecessary, the Supervisors ruled in favor of the license because of their perception that the local economy would benefit from construction of the store at Country Club Plaza. The petitioners then exercised their legal right to request the California ABC to deny the issuance of the license. The petition was denied (see our blog entry entitled ABC Protest Hearing). Pursuant to state law, the petitioners asked a separate state agency, the ABC Appeals Board to overturn the ABC's determination. The store was subsequently built and opened at Country Club Plaza and, generally unknown to the public, was granted an interim license to sell to-go alcohol long before the Appeals Board even scheduled the hearing. At the December 2016 hearing, a panel of appointees heard testimony from the citizen petitioners and from WinCo's and the ABC's attorney. The Panel, while cordial, said 1) they understood that Arden Arcade has an excessive amount of to-go liquor licenses and 2) they acknowledged that problems flow to the community from that situation. But they then explained they were powerless to do anything about it because the Legislature had given the Supervisors the power to go against the ABC's regulations. "You have a political problem", said one of the Panel members, referring to both the Supervisors and the Legislature. The hearing was closed with all participants understanding that the license would be allowed to stand. The ABC Appeals Board will be releasing a formal statement to that effect.