Fresno's liquor license ordinance poses problem for Circle K investors

Jason Oliveira Image
Wednesday, June 26, 2019
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Council members are trying to reduce the number of liquor licenses in the city, but Circle K says they are being penalized.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- An empty lot in West Central Fresno could soon make way for a brand new Circle K gas station.

Out of town investors will go before the Fresno City Council later this week in hopes of getting the go-ahead to build the convenience store on Ashlan near Cornelia in between a Walgreens and a health center

But some say the area is already saturated with stores operating with alcohol licenses.

"What the national chains have already agreed to is that they're going to adhere to the spirit of our new ordinance even though it's not fully in effect yet," said Councilmember Miguel Arias.

The council recently passed the "Safe Neighborhood Market Ordinance," which in part will cap the number of liquor licenses across the city, and require new store owners to buy existing licenses only to retire them for every store they open.

Arias, who represents Downtown and Southwest Fresno, says investors must also clean up existing stores before a new one can be built.

He points out the Circle K at Olive and Palm typically reports over 500 calls for service every year, making it one of the highest for police responses in Fresno

"We feel they need to do a better job of fixing those stores and reinvesting in them and improving them before we approve additional spots," he said.

Councilmember Garry Bredefeld, who represents Northeast Fresno, acknowledges the saturation of stores in the area but says the city can't deny the growth of business and job creation.

"Circle K has a lot of products that they sell and certainly alcohol is one of them but its a very small part of the business yet they're impacted but this ordinance," he said. "So I think the council needs to be sensitive to that and not have (these) unintended consequences that hurt businesses from coming here."

Bredefeld would like to see the council modify the ordinance to help businesses like Circle K that do not primarily sell alcohol.

"We want to reduce liquor licenses, and we want to reduce liquor stores. This is not a liquor store," he said. "This is a grocery store, and they sell a lot of products, and we want to help them. If they make some profit off of liquor more power to them."

Arias commented, "That's just falsehoods...the fact is without an alcohol license convenience stores cannot generate a profit to operate."

Circle K investors are expected to workshop their proposed store before council members during Thursday's council meeting at City Hall.