City Council: No alcohol at Webster Street 76
Alameda’s City Council shot down a proposal to allow beer and wine sales at a to-be-expanded Webster Street gas station convenience store, saying approval would have impeded the city’s efforts to reimagine a commercial corridor once lined with bars and tattoo parlors that served incoming Navy sailors.
“I think Webster Street is still in the process of trying to define its own identity, and I would hate to make a decision that prevents Webster Street from becoming all it can become,” Mayor Marie Gilmore said before the council’s unanimous vote.
The council signed off on zoning changes for businesses on Webster and Park streets that will allow the owners of the 76 gas station at Webster and Buena Vista to demolish the station’s service bays and replace them with a 2,575-square-foot convenience store.
Council members upheld the Planning Board’s April denial of a request to sell beer and wine at the site, saying Webster Street is already oversaturated with businesses that sell alcohol. But the council stopped short of setting a quota for the number of businesses that can sell alcohol in the commercial district.
In May the council voted to restrict tattoo parlors to the second floor of buildings on Webster Street. That vote came after the council decided to allow the businesses on Webster Street, a move that drew concerns after a number of prospective tattoo parlor owners sought to open up businesses there.
City planners had urged approval of the 76 station expansion plans, including alcohol sales, which were also backed by the leaders of the West Alameda Business Association. But the Planning Board denied the request to sell wine and beer after a trio of residents and business owners – including the owner of a nearby liquor store – said that area of Webster already has too many.
In a report to the council for Tuesday’s meeting, city staff said there are four liquor stores and a convenience market that sells alcohol within four blocks of the 76 station.
Crime data offered by a neighbor shows nearly three dozen crimes taking place over a three-month period within a 500-foot radius of the gas station, according to a staff report for Tuesday’s council meeting. But Alameda Police Lt. Paul Rolleri couldn’t say Tuesday whether there was a correlation between alcohol sales and crimes that have taken place in that area of Webster Street.
Daniel Hoy, an architect representing 76 owner Delong Liu, argued that prohibiting Liu from selling beer and wine would create an unfair market advantage for other, similar businesses and put a sizable dent in Liu’s operating margins. But city staffers argued that such concerns aren’t a basis for offering or withholding such an approval.
City staffers said other recently approved gas stations, including those operated by Nob Hill Foods at Bridgeside Center and Safeway at Alameda South Shore Center and 76 stations on Park Street and at the Harbor Bay Landing shopping center, don’t sell alcohol. Nor does the Chevron station on Webster, across the street from the 76 site.
Liu began seeking approvals for his expanded convenience market in 2010, as efforts to reimagine Webster Street were in full swing. A vision document for the commercial corridor cited the revamp of the 76 station as a positive development on Webster, along with the opening of The Frog and Fiddle bar and restaurant and the conversion of Tillie’s diner into Café Jolie.
City Councilwoman Beverly Johnson questioned whether it was fair to deny the 76’s owners the right to sell alcohol when others are permitted to do it, though others said granting that right could have wider implications.
“Once we grant the right to this property, it rides with the property, not this owner,” Deputy City Manager Alex Nguyen said. “Trying to get that revoked, should that be a problem in the future, is worse than 100 root canals. It is almost impossible.”