The Encanto Planning Group gave 7-Eleven — which proposes to buy out the Greene Cat liquor store if the franchise chain's conditions are okayed — permission to stay open 24 hours at a meeting on Monday night (December 18th).
With about 60 community members present, the last obstacle was cleared. Although the Japanese-owned franchise would also get the Greene Cat's liquor license, its representatives have promised to sell only beer and wine.
The corporation hasn’t signed to buy, pending permission to stay open 24 hours, which has to be approved by the community. A 7-Eleven representative, Steve Laub, promised the store would sell only beer and wine, with those sales only between 8 am and midnight; the cooler doors would be controlled by employees for the last two hours of the night.
“You’re going from a store that 90 percent of the sales are liquor and 10 percent are other things to one where 10 percent of the sales are beer and wine and 90 percent are other things,” Laub said.
Much of the support centered around the neighborhood’s efforts to attract businesses and jobs, and the economic development that often follows name-brand businesses. Seven-Eleven is in the midst of a push to get more stores into neighborhoods all over the city. Its efforts had encountered strong opposition in some places, including City Heights, where the store obtained a liquor license and moved it down University Avenue despite fierce neighborhood competition. Linda Vista recently rejected a 7-Eleven on Friars Road at Via Las Cumbres. But other stores have met little resistance.
The company plans to sink $875,000 into refurbishing the interior and exterior of the Greene Cat store, according to 7-Eleven real estate manager Jim Davis. Once the store is ready, it will be turned over to a franchisee, who Davis said is closely supervised to be sure the stores are up to corporate standards.
“We have very, very stringent method of making sure the franchisees adhere to the franchise standards,” Davis said.
Some residents said they would like to see the liquor sales go away entirely.
Grade-school principal Gina Olson and Sister Margaret Castro from from St. Rita’s Catholic Church School came and spoke against the project, saying the store will be selling beer and wine within 300 feet of the school.
“It’s an existing license. We’re not here to ask for a liquor license,” Laub responded. “We’ll have the one that came with the Greene Cat. If 7-Eleven doesn’t buy it, the sad reality is that someone else will come in and buy it and open a liquor store there.”
Others expressed concerns that the store — particularly the parking lot, would be a magnet to crime and homeless people. They pointed to problems with the nearby 7-Eleven at Division and Euclid, with pictures of transients sleeping in the parking lot.
The owners of the Arco gas station across the street brought a petition with more than 200 signatures against the store.
The group voted 9-2 in favor of recommending a zoning waiver to allow the store to stay open around the clock. The abstaining members said they didn’t have enough information. The group’s chairman received the city’s analysis of the project just hours before the meeting and most members didn’t have the opportunity to read it.
“I look at this as a positive,” group member Barry Pollard said. “We can’t stop a liquor store from coming here…. Is 7-Eleven the best we can do? Absolutely not. It’s better than what we have. I want to see that corner start improving…. People are not breaking down our doors to come here,” he added.
Curing blight is a process that happens in steps and the 7-Eleven is a good first step, group member Monte Jones said. “We start one corner at a time and work our way around.”