OCEANSIDE — City Council directed staff to look into limiting alcohol sales at fast food restaurants at their Feb. 19 meeting, specifically restaurants with over the counter ordering and drive-thru services.
Councilwoman Ester Sanchez said she is concerned that an Oceanside fast food restaurant is seeking an alcohol license and more may follow.
She said her concern is that a large number of minors frequent and work at fast food restaurants.
“There is no difference in license regulations at sit down restaurants and fast food restaurants with drive-thrus,” Sanchez said.
“Kids congregate at fast food places. It’s not set up or designed as a place you should drink.”
Sanchez added alcohol is a community concern and licensing fast food restaurants to sell alcohol without added restrictions could put a drain on police resources.
“Do we want to see this as a pattern and as a trend?”
Councilman Jack Feller, a former restaurant owner, said he wanted to be fair to restaurant owners who are already required to abide by ABC (Alcohol Beverage Control) guidelines.
Councilman Gary Felien also questioned the necessity of adding city restrictions.
“I don’t understand the loophole we’re filling,” Felien said.
Police Chief Frank McCoy said the type of restaurant is not considered in the ABC application process.
“If the reporting district is low crime and the census district is not over saturated (with restaurants that sell alcohol) there is no reason not to approve a license,” McCoy said.
He added that it is extremely rare for a restaurant with drive-through service to sell alcohol. Presently there are only two in the state.
There are 18 over the counter order restaurants in Oceanside that sell alcohol.
“As it stands today I don’t see an overwhelming push for fast food restaurants selling alcohol,” McCoy said. “One is coming forward that sold alcohol before.”
While there is no present push for alcohol licenses by fast food restaurants there is also little opportunity for police input in the licensing process.
Restaurants do not fall under the conditional use permit process to sell alcohol like stores do. Under the conditional use permit process the police department can challenge ABC granting a license and request specific conditions be put in place.
Considering all information, City Council voted unanimously to direct staff to look into restricting the sales of alcohol in fast food restaurants.
The first step staff will take is to define the target restaurants they are considering restricting.
Breweries and sit down dinning establishments were mentioned as being off the list of restaurants that need restrictions.
“We’ll start by dealing with drive-thrus,” City Manager Steve Jepsen said.
City Council had a discussion on restricting alcohol sales in stores just prior to the WalMart Neighborhood Market opening on Mission Avenue in late January.
Earlier Council discussion to limit alcohol sales in stores in the downtown beach area died without direction to staff.
The location of the WalMart Neighborhood Market within 500 of a school was troubling to Erica Leary, program manager of North County Prevention Coalition, and others.
Leary said she is also concerned proposed restrictions on restaurant sales of alcohol are limited in their scope of impact.
“I appreciate the opportunity to discuss the issue, but I’m disappointed it’s so narrow in focus,” Leary said. “It’s an opportunity for cities to take a broad more comprehensive approach.”
Present direction to staff will be followed up by police, ABC and community input.
If a zoning ordinance or conditional use permit to limit the sales of alcohol in restaurants is adopted it will not effect restaurants that already have an alcohol license.