Walgreens' sales of alcohol in South City stymied 

Walgreens is facing an uphill battle in its effort to sell beer and wine in South San Francisco.

The city’s chief planner denied an application for Walgreens to sell alcohol at its Westborough Boulevard location at the request of the South City Police Department, which cited a high crime rate and the number of police calls to stores that sell alcohol.

“It’s an issue on record,” said Billy Gross, South City associate planner. “The Police Department has some records showing calls for services to the existing Walgreens store and each of the five locations where off-site establishments already exist.”

Walgreens has made a push nationwide to start selling beer and wine at many of its stores. Spokesman Robert Elfinger said it is in response to demand from customers because customers do not want to drive all over town to pick up groceries, medicine and alcohol.

“Our customers want more of a one-stop shopping experience,” he said.

Though Elfinger said the company has not received much resistance from the people in communities where they have submitted applications, local officials have made objections.

Officials in San Francisco recently requested legislation be drafted that prohibits the sale of alcohol in drug stores, while Palo Alto city leaders did not take a stance in spite of opposition from the public.

South San Francisco Mayor Mike Addiego said the decision is all business.

“I’m not so worried about having another place selling alcohol,” he said. “I think they will rise to the same level of watchfulness, but it does seem to be bizarre that a business like Walgreens — dealing with health and those issues — is interested in alcohol.”

There are 16 Walgreens stores on the Peninsula including two in South San Francisco. Only one of those stores, however, could possibly sell alcohol. Elfinger said he did not know how many Walgreens in San Mateo County could potentially sell alcohol.

Permits are pending for Walgreens stores across the state, according to the Alcohol and Beverage Control’s Web site.

ABC spokesman John Carr said the pending status is normal in order to notify cities of applicants’ intentions to sell because it would not be consumed on-site, as in a restaurant setting.

Carr said the process and timeline depend if there are objections and appeals.

“It could be 45 days,” he said. “Or it could take some time. I don’t really know. It all depends on what happens in the process.”

Counting Walgreens

The number of Walgreens stores nationwide in each fiscal year (September through August):

2009-10: 7,496
2008-09: 6,934
2007-08: 5,997
2006-07: 5,461
2005-06: 5,461

Source: Walgreens


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