Sacramento County continues to prime the booze pump

Gas-station project reaffirms Sac County's curious kinship with booze businesses

Is the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors addicted to green-lighting alcohol permits?

Is the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors addicted to green-lighting alcohol permits?

illustration by jason crosby

When it comes to licensing booze-slinging businesses in Sacramento County, the logic is sometimes as hard to swallow as a shot of Everclear. A somewhat routine gas-station project that county supervisors approved last week illuminates this warped terrain.

On November 6, supervisors granted the owner of a site on Dillard Road in Wilton permission to remodel an existing convenience store into an auto-service station with a canopied area for gas pumps, a smaller convenience mart and tiny office add-on. The permit came with the mildly contentious approval to sell 12-ounce containers of liquor and beer, rather than the standard 25-ounce or larger containers gas stations typically sell.

The county’s board of supervisors Vice Chairwoman Susan Peters pounced on this issue, citing concerns over drunk driving and the board’s own history of rejecting “so many” similar requests to carry the smaller alcohol-container sizes in her district.

Also raising eyebrows, the applicant was permitted to start selling alcohol as early as 6 a.m.—because of the property’s proximity to a fishing spot—an hour earlier than other locations.

On a larger scale, Peters isn’t exaggerating when she says her district has been the source of “so many” alcoholic-beverage requests. Of the eight off-site liquor licenses the board has approved this year in oversaturated and high-crime neighborhoods, six were in Peters’ district, which encompasses the unincorporated communities of Arden Arcade, Cordova, Fair Oaks, Carmichael, North Highlands and Foothill Farms. That ratio was similarly one-sided last year, when Peters’ constituency quaffed nine of the 16 approved licenses (see “Sacramento County binges on liquor stores,” SN&R Frontlines, January 26).

Peters would not comment, but community-development director Lori Moss told SN&R this is because the built-out District 3 is where a bulk of the county’s commercial development sits.

“The good news is that it’s economic development,” added county communications director Chris Andis, “but I digress.”

So do we.

Last week’s gas-station permit was a slightly different animal than the off-site liquor-license applications supervisors normally see, and this is where things get a little confusing. The vast majority of liquor licenses for convenience stores, gas stations, grocery marts, specialty stores and supermarkets are rubber-stamped at the state level by the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. Local municipalities only weigh in when such licenses are proposed in communities that are either already drowning in booze businesses, are tormented by high crime rates or both. Wilton isn’t one of these neighborhoods.

Peters cast the lone opposing vote against the alcoholic portion of the modified-use permit, despite applicant Vijay Singh’s defense of the better-selling smaller bottles.

If he was forced to sell only larger containers, he said he would “definitely lose a lot of business.”

“Yeah,” Peters replied, “I remain unconvinced.”