Santa Barbara Politics, Media & Culture

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Community Post: East or West Side -- Why is That Where the 40's Are?

A former city council candidate who did better than anyone thought and was more astute than anyone thought possible for a candidate of his age -- David Espaza, Jr. -- wrote the following thoughtful piece on the location of liquor stores in Santa Barbara. I appreciate his willingness to speak out on this important issue.

===Written by Dabid Esparza, Jr.====

The issue of liquor stores and availability of alcohol in minority neighborhoods is an issue the City Council seems unable or unwilling to tackle, saying that it is a State issue with State-level jurisdiction under the ABC (Alcohol and Beverage Control). Assemblyman Pedro Nava's office did not respond to an email request for information, not even with a canned generic response.

Though the data from the Census Bureau and my own quick research of locations selling alcohol show that, indeed, Latino neighborhoods are saturated with liquor stores, drug stores, grocery stores and the like. Milpas Street alone has nearly a dozen locations. San Andres and the Lower West Side are similar.

From my own observations:

- Some of these places have clerks who will sell to anyone, even those who are underage. Sometimes the clerks are friends or relatives of underage consumers, other times the clerks simply do not care. These types of transactions are typically conducted later in the evening, as anecdotes from people young and old have shown.

- Many grocery stores and drug stores (Longs, for example) are staying open later. Often times the staffing is low, and I have observed many instances of clearly underage, and some over 21, people walk out with bottles of liquor without ever having paid for it.

- There are people who go to buy more beer and liquor when they are already inebriated, or almost there. This seems to happen more often during the evening, and even more as midnight approaches.

- Reading the Daily Sound and Police Press Releases on, underage Latinos represent a significant and likely over-representation of those cited for DUIs.

I believe the City Council needs to show some leadership in what they do. For all of their positive steps in trying to reduce crime for youth in general, and Latino youth in particular, they remain detached from issues such as this that contribute to a negative environment in Latino neighborhoods. And environment is critical in combating gangs and youth violence.

While the City Council seems to be willing to decide on the locations and business practices for Medicinal Marijuana clinics, I question, as a Latino who was born and raised here, why they would seem so apathetic when it comes to a substance that causes more destruction of families, more violence, and more injury and death.

This is an issue that Latinos have been questioning for many years, and as a child I heard older relatives and friends of the family complain that the City allows alcohol to be readily available in these neighborhoods because it doesn't care about Latinos. I don't think the Council to be opposed to action, but they appear, at least, detached from the neighborhoods.

Can the City exert influence and control over the availability and sales of alcohol? Should they limit sales to certain times, cutting of purchases earlier in the evening than the State mandated 2am? Is this just an issue for Latinos and those living in these neighborhoods? Is it an issue for the City at large?

I'd hope to answer 'yes' to all of those questions.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good post! As one who lives in the lower east side, but is not Latino, I've seen a lot of early morning and afternoon drunks, thanks to the profusion of liquor stores. They seem to particularly serve the homeless, not necessarily the Latinos. However, for the most part, I can't really tell who's "Latino" and who is not.

It certainly does show a disrespect for this area. But that's typical for a lower income area where the people, generally, neither vote in great numbers nor protest.

2/07/2008 8:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Per capita alcohol consumption is no different in Montecito than around Milpas or the lower west.

But what is different is the preceived risk of shopkeepers; they (and their insurers) perceive poorer areas as more risky.

Alcohol has the highest profit margin, and pays for all the other costs. Well, lots of stuff in stores in poorer areas is more expensive. Same deal. I grew up in Oakland... saw it there too.

One local counterexample... lots of liquor stores in Isla Vista. That isn't Latino, for the most part.

2/07/2008 8:47 PM  
Anonymous Don Jose de la Guerra y Noriega said...

Two excellent posts this evening Sara. You've got the local beat covered. Both subjects are important.

2/07/2008 9:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I complained to the ABC about adding the sale of liquour at a neighborhood store and was told the following: the neighborhood stores are a positive element and help control neighborhood crime. The police like them because they help get to know what is going on in the neighborhood. And that the only way they can survive economically, is to sell high profit liquor.

So there you have it. It is amazing in this day of mass big box merchandizing that these many small neighborhood stores even exist at all. So if it takes selling liquour to keep the doors open, one has to also factor what happens to the hoods if they close.

We learned how nice it is to have local marijuana shops in the hoods. Maybe we should open more of them..............????? Everyone seems to love the idea of selling pot in the hoods. SO why complain about selling booze all the sudden.

2/07/2008 9:58 PM  
Blogger Greg Knowles said...

The issue that hits me is selling or giving alchohol to minors. Adults should be able to make good choices, but to allow minors to have alchohol is just plain wrong. Thanks for the post.

2/08/2008 8:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just to get this straight we shouldnt be selling alcohol in Latino neighborhoods? The city council should get involved in stopping this right? Even though a Latino wrote this how many "progressives" will freak out if this ever comes up to the council calling it a racist/socioeconomic measure which to a certain measure it smacks of.

Isla Vista has a 12pm curfew within their limits but beleive that zoning has to do with UC than local laws. I have a store in my neighborhood(upper east) that added hard alcohol to its shelves which has just added up to more of a convenience factor than make it a destination for drunks.

The truth is its more of a community problem than a legislative one.

2/08/2008 5:16 PM  
Anonymous augusto den said...

Isla Vista was dry until 1974, due to a provision in state law that forbade selling within a mile of a college campus. The joke was that it was easier to purchase LSD, heroin, cocaine, etc. in IV then alcohol.

Eventually UC relented, but I think the midnite rule is a remnant of the original situation.

The IV community has worked very hard to oppose new licenses and license changes (usually upgrades to hard liquor sales). However, it is the State ABC that decides in the end, and at those hearings it always looks like the State ABC is very afraid of the alcohol industry's pressure. The community bats about 0.300 at those hearings.

So I'd not agree that it is mainly a community issue.

2/09/2008 7:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

SIGN COMMITTEE AGENDA February 13, 2008 Page 5
10. 128 S SALINAS ST C-P Zone
(11:05) Assessor's Parcel Number: 017-232-001
Application Number: SGN2008-00001
Owner: Winters Family Corporation
Applicant: Sign-A-Rama, Goleta
Business Name: Fairway Market
(Proposal for replacement of existing signage with one 13.3 square foot light box sign.

Letters being
changed from Fairway Market to Fairway Liquor & Market.

The linear building frontage is 24.5 feet.
The allowable signage is 24.5 square feet.)

2/11/2008 10:52 AM  

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