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O’side plans to put limits on alcohol sales; some think laws fall short

OCEANSIDE — Oceanside is putting limits on alcohol sales at fast food restaurants.

Proposed regulations, discussed at a workshop Jan. 14, would ban sales of hard liquor at fast food restaurants, and allow sales of beer and wine consumed on site.

Councilman Jerry Kern said the city is playing catch up with changing restaurant operation models that increasingly include sales of alcohol. He gave the example of the Starbucks Coffee Company chain, which is piloting the addition of beer and wine to its beverage list.

Oceanside’s laws would also prohibit all alcohol sales at fast food restaurants with a drive-thru or walk-up sales window.

Drive-thru sales were seen as trouble by most. City Council members expressed concern about these sales in the downtown area, saying drinking in public is already an issue police are addressing.

Residents and representatives from Vista Community Clinic and North Coastal Prevention Coalition said proposed laws are not going far enough.

Speakers pointed out that downtown fast food restaurants are located by homes and schools, which makes it an unsuitable area for more alcohol sales.

They asked that a conditional use permit be required to allow the city to look at license approvals on a case-by-case basis, and consider if it’s a fit for the surrounding neighborhood.

“We do not need to give restaurants carte blanche to sell alcohol,” Nadine Scott, Oceanside resident, said. “Every alcohol license should be vetted by the police department.”

The City Council requested that mandatory education for restaurant employees be included in license requirements. The cities of Encinitas, Solana Beach, Vista, San Marcos and Poway have adopted a Responsible Beverage Sales and Service ordinance that requires employee training.

Erica Leary, program manager of North Coastal Prevention Coalition, said the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control provides alcohol sales and service training free of charge.

City staff was directed to speak to the 130 fast food restaurants that will be affected by proposed laws before an ordinance returns to City Council.

Following the meeting city Associate Planner Scott Knightingale said a workshop would be scheduled to address questions and concerns of restaurant owners within 60 days.

Knightingale said he expects restaurant owners to embrace the education component, and oppose any added restrictions.

City planning staff has already met with a stakeholders group that included North Coastal Prevention Coalition, Oceanside police, MainStreet Oceanside, Oceanside Chamber of Commerce, and the San Diego Restaurant Association.

No restaurant owners addressed City Council at the Jan. 14 workshop.

Currently two Oceanside fast food drive-thru restaurants are licensed to sell alcohol. Both sell hamburgers in the downtown area. These restaurants will be grandfathered in and allowed to keep their alcoholic beverage license.

Adopted regulations will apply to fast food restaurants that seek an alcohol license going forward.

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