Cut Crime by Cutting Liquor Sales

Alcohol is the root of many problems, say eastsiders.

By Jacqueline García, EGP Staff Writer

National Night Out’s call “to take back the streets” should be a year-round goal, not just another one-day proclamation, according to some of the people living in Los Angeles city and county’s eastside.

Exhibits of law enforcement vehicles, K-9 units and free hot dogs may be good public relations, but do little to decrease crime and improve quality of life issues, they claim about the annual event taking place next week.

In unincorporated East Los Angeles, some point to the actions of elected officials and bureaucrats as the root of many local problems, which they say cannot be solved with stepped up sheriff and police patrols alone.

Specifically, they see the proliferation of liquor licenses in their neighborhood as a major obstacle to them “taking back” control of their streets and efforts to reduce crime. They blame “easy access” to beer, wine and hard liquor for everything from vandalism to domestic violence to murder, and claim elected officials share the blame. However, most elected officials say they are very diligent about reviewing liquor license requests, rejecting many.

Ramirez Beverage Center in Boyle Heights has many residents complaining; they say alcohol is the cause for crimes and they don’t want the “full liquor store” in their neighborhood. (EGP photo by Jacqueline García)

Ramirez Beverage Center in Boyle Heights has many residents complaining; they say alcohol is the cause for crimes and they don’t want the “full liquor store” in their neighborhood. (EGP photo by Jacqueline García)

Margarita Ortiz lives in East L.A. and is working with other residents to overturn the recent approval of a liquor license for a CVS drug store opening on the corner of Cesar E. Chavez and Rowan avenues. She told EGP the area is a “hot spot” for crime and violence, and was shocked that the license was approved during a July 16 public hearing of the LA Regional Planning Commission.

Ortiz said she is angry that the new 24 Hours CVS will be allowed to sell liquor on the same block where five businesses already hold a liquor license.

The number of businesses licensed to sell alcohol in her neighborhood is excessive, she said, claiming the impact has been devastating.

“The residents of this neighborhood strongly oppose the granting of another liquor license in our neighborhood,” Ortiz told EGP.

However, selling liquor can be very profitable for a business, sometimes the difference between staying in business and going broke.

Lea este artículo en Español: Crimen Disminuye con Recorte de Ventas de Alcohol

Michael DeAngelis, CVS director of public relations, told EGP that it is important for people to understand that CVS is not adding to the number of liquor licenses in the area, but transferring one from another local establishment.

He said CVS is committed to the community and will act responsibly, limiting alcohol sales to between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m.

“Our shelf space for alcohol sales will be 4.14%, which is less than the maximum of 5% of shelf space” allowed in the County of Los Angeles’ Zoning Ordinance, DeAngelis said.

L.A. County Supervisor Gloria Molina represents the area and according to her director of field operations, Martha Molina-Aviles, the supervisor has a long track record of not permitting “new licenses in the area.” Instead, she “encourages people to buy an existing one” as CVS has done.

There are about 300 liquor licenses in the 7.5 square-mile area of East L.A., Molina-Aviles told EGP.

While the supervisor originally supported CVS’ liquor license application she decided to reconsider that position in response to concerns raised by constituents.

The Board of Supervisors [had] until July 30 to appeal the decision and on Tuesday Molina filed a motion requesting a review of the license, according to Molina-Aviles.

Meanwhile, next door in Boyle Heights, El Mercado’s petition for a full liquor license is also raising red flags in the community. Currently four separate liquor licenses have been issued for the combination retail, dining and entertainment venue on First Street.

Los Angeles Councilman Jose Huizar and representatives of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Hollenbeck station attended the hearing on El Mercado’s change the nature of liquor sales at its site. Their attendance raised the ire of Boyle Heights resident Teresa Marquez.

“I was very upset that officers spent so much time at the hearing to support [El Mercado’s] liquor license,” Marquez said.

There are essentially four main types of liquor licenses issued in California: two beer and wine licenses for either on-site or off-site consumption, and two full [beer, wine and distilled spirits] liquor licenses, also for either on-site or off-site consumption, with a slew of other categories for special circumstances.

Captain Garey Lopez of the Hollenbeck Division told EGP the department does not approve or reject liquor licenses, but does make recommendations to the hearing board.

He said approving El Mercado’s license was a good deal for the community because the owner agreed to give up two beer and wine licenses in exchange for upgrading one license to sell hard liquor.

Huizar spokesperson Rick Coca told EGP that a one year probationary period is being required as part of the change, but added that El Mercado could apply to upgrade its remaining beer and wine license to full liquor if all goes well.

“It is a sit-down family restaurant that provides cultural programming, not a bar or a night club,” Coca emphasized.

According to Lopez, one year ago it was estimated that there were 248 active liquor licenses in the Hollenbeck Division, but that number has dropped to 226.

“Our objective is to limit and decrease the number of licenses” in Hollenbeck, Coca said.

Huizar has been less understanding in cases where retailers try to skirt the law and violate the conditions of their licenses.

Ramirez Liquor Store on Olympic and Soto Avenue may be one of those cases. Because the liquor store is located at the site of a former grocery store, Fines Market, the retailer was grandfathered in to sell alcohol. However, Fine’s liquor sales were secondary to its primary use as a grocery store, which is not the case with Ramirez Liquor Store.

Area residents complained that because Ramirez is now primarily selling liquor, it should have to go through the formal liquor licensing process just like every other liquor seller.

Huizar agreed.

Coca told EGP that the city’s Building and Safety Department (LADBS) has ordered Ramirez Liquor to apply for a CUB, Conditional Use Beverage and new occupancy permits or convert back to a grocery store.

The CUB designation allows the city and local councilman to place conditions on the businesses operations, according to Coca.

“We would be opposed to them operating as they are currently operating,” Coca said.

EGP contacted the owner of Ramirez Liquor for comment, but he said he was “too busy” doing inventory to talk.

There’s an abundance of “drunks on the streets” of the eastside, which according to El Sereno resident Carlos Morales is a major quality of life issue. “It’s a shame that when our kids get out of school they see them laying on the streets or urinating in public,” he told EGP. “Why don’t we see this in the more affluent neighborhoods? Our community deserves better,” he added.

Huizar told EGP via email that his office works with LAPD’s Hollenbeck Division to limit and reduce the number of liquor licenses and to protect “our communities.”

We want “to make sure existing facilities are acting within the parameters of their state-issued alcohol licenses and city-regulated conditional uses,” he added.


Twitter @jackieguzman

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July 31, 2014  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.


5 Responses to “Cut Crime by Cutting Liquor Sales”

  1. Crimen Disminuye con Recorte de Ventas de Alcohol : Eastern Group Publications on July 31st, 2014 11:40 am

    […] Read this article in English:Cut Crime by Cutting Liquor Sales […]

  2. Teresa Marquez on July 31st, 2014 3:41 pm

    Our questions to LAPD and Councilman Huizar, why would you go to the extreem to support El Mercado’s full line of liquor for a Family restaurant, a culture that apparently Huizar has to drink alcohol infront of his own children. Residence do not go to el Mercado because of the drunks, and they do not want their children or young adults expose to drunks that are most of the time out of control, and using unacceptable language. Our community of Boyle Heights has try to move on beyond the need for more alcohol establishments, and understanding the culture of parents or adults drinking around children is not the right thing to do. Why does the LAPD Hollenbeck need to present at the hearing? Why Senior Lead Officer has time to be at the hearing, but doees not have not to return call to residents in his area. Why does Councilman Huizar has time to seat at the PLUM Hearing awaiting for his testemony in supporting a liquor licenses, instead of having a two hours townhall meeting with Boyle Heights Community, which he has no time for since 2006. The reason El Mercado has now clean up their act is due to the involvement of the community leaders living around El Mercado that constantly have to report drunks sleeping on the side walk, cars park illegally onthe red curve entering the Mercado from First Street, and blocking the delivery trucks causing traffic delays. The community has asked for traffic studies around el Mercado, not only due to El Mercado but Gold Line pedetrians and auto traffic, and yet I have not seen one yet. LAPD or Huizar has taken time to evaluate the impact of drunks and traffic on the only Evergreen Joggin track for famlies in Boyle Heights, and ELA. In addition, they never want to take into consideration the impact of liquor establishments across the street in ELA, on Cesar Chavez, Whittier, and Olympic. El Mercado is part of a census track that only allows three (3) liquor licenses, and El Mercado alone has five (less two that should…

  3. Eric Lopez on August 1st, 2014 8:37 pm

    Another example of government regulation attempting to shut down family Hispanic business from expansion . El Mercado giving up permits to obtain one . Even Cvs took over a primary liquor permit from an existing establishment . Cutting liquor to rid crime are u kidding seriously drugs isn’t the problem it isn’t the gangs in the neighborhoods? It liquor , it’s funny how people target hard worki people but are afraid to target the true monsters at night. Gang members and drugs are the problem why don’t u write a article on them ? Guess what cvs el mercado and Ramirez beverage are all new yet the data on the crime rate on the area has been been in high numbers for such a long period. Anyone hear of Bevmos they are in white areas yets Hispanics apparently can’t handle one based off ur article . Article is bias cause if u live in the area u know people come from miles to spend money at these locations

  4. Teresa Marquez on August 17th, 2014 10:51 pm

    Erick, you may want to educate yourself on the harm alcohol does in our communities. Even alcohol advertisement is harmful to our youth. You may want to read the documentation on the hearing on full line of liquor too. The money made on alcohol can no offset the cost the State of California or the Councy of Los Angeles expend on prevention, harm, death and domestic violance. I believe Boyle Heights has taken a more positive view to rid of alcohol advertisements and liquor licenses. Do you know that only 3 liquor licenses are allowed in the census track that El Mercado is part of? and El Mercado holds five liquor licenses in its premises, and a total of 12 licenses active in that census tract, 9 too many.

  5. Eric Lopez on September 2nd, 2014 8:43 pm

    Teresa, you may want to get past the prohibition era. Your comment regarding advertising is seeded in the belief along the ideology of rock music creates monsters, video games teaches youth to kill. Yes alcohol studies have been done, but these studies are unrealiable as variables are uncontrollable throughout a youths life. No definitive results. Your attack on Huizar mentioning a culture in which he needs to drink in front of his children emphasizes your view on the beverage.Btw studies show alcohol is benefical to your health. Your focus on why limitations should be placed is understood but this article points at blaming booze as the reason for crime. A reason that is incorrect and you should look at statistical information for crimes caused by drugs and numbers of drug users. Not saying liquor is great but dont blame the establishments that are making jobs avaliable because the true reasons of crime dont have a building in which they are selling. What do you think is worst drugs or liquor and yes lowering crime will be great by targeting highly populated gang member area known in Boyle Heights. This article is called Cut Crime by Cutting Liquor Sales , liquor will be present since its legal whether if the individual must drive a block or a mile. In response to your statement about reading documentation on the hearing on full line of liquor and harm does in our communities i say you may want to educate yourself on the true issues of crime by sending any male in your family over 18 with a regular white or black shirt at night and see if the reason for crime will be a drunk or a gang member. I grew up in the neighborhood . Aim your attacks at the proper people and not at the ones you believe your social obligation should be because you dont know what else to do.

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