A detriment to business

Chief Kirk Trostle’s proposed alcohol rules are draconian

The community’s concerns about the restrictive conditions for operations of new restaurants and bars recommended to the city by Chico Police Chief Kirk Trostle are understandable. No live music? No dancing? No karaoke? No disc jockeys or fashion shows?

Attempting to control alcohol-fueled crime is an important undertaking for the Police Department, since such activity stretches the resources of the department, which is already low in officer-to-population ratio. But the conditions put forth by Trostle crack down on several activities that keep businesses vibrant, and have virtually nothing to do with crime (See “Contentious conditions,” Newslines, by Ken Smith).

What will be accomplished through many of these restrictions is the reduction of the ways that future entrepreneurs can make their businesses viable and competitive. City leaders should consider the conditions very carefully, and listen to the people who will be most affected by them.

In our view, alcohol-fueled bad behavior has little if anything to do with live music and dancing—or even karaoke. We can only figure that Trostle is offering such draconian restrictions to establish an extreme starting point for an eventual compromise on the matter. At least we hope that is where he is coming from.

City leaders must also be careful in addressing the efforts of those who were already in the process of starting alcohol-selling establishments. A couple of them—The Winchester Goose and the B Street Oyster Co.—understandably believed that the licenses they procured would receive the city’s OK. They both began the process well before Trostle and the City Council began discussions on how to curb alcohol abuse. Further, neither establishment will cater to the “buck-night” crowd.

The owners of these would-be businesses were hit with new restrictions after dumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into remodeling projects. Now they remain in limbo.

Perhaps the biggest loser in this effort thus far is Charanjiv Singh, the owner of the Mangrove Mini Mart, located at Fifth and Mangrove avenues. The City Council rejected his application to sell beer and wine several months back. Singh is in debt to the tune of $400,000 on the work to upgrade the store. He purchased it back in January 2012, taking that risk in good faith that he’d have no pushback on selling alcohol. After all, the previous owner had done so for decades prior in this residential neighborhood.

The store does not cater to college students. So, why deny Singh? The official reason is because the store is located in one of the city’s 24 census tracts—as established by the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control—that is currently oversaturated with off-site licenses. (There are seven, rather than the recommended four.)

But if the city has too many off-sale alcohol stores, why was the national chain BevMo! welcomed with such open arms? Even City Manager Brian Nakamura—who has signed onto many of the restrictions recommended by Trostle—attended BevMo!’s grand opening. The new liquor outlet is located in a tract that calls for five such stores, but currently has 13.

The decision to approve a license for that big-box store smacks of hypocrisy. The City Council has had the good sense recently to reconsider Singh’s license, and we would urge the council members to give him the OK.