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Culver City May Ban Gas Station Liquor Sales

February 23, 1986|JEFF BURBANK | Times Staff Writer

Following the lead of other cities concerned about drunk driving, the City Council of Culver City is considering a proposal to prohibit new gasoline station owners from selling alcoholic beverages.

The proposed ban would allow the city's five station mini-marts that now sell alcohol to continue doing so until they are sold or leased.

The Planning Commission approved the proposal last week and the City Council will consider it March 10, city planner Jay Cunningham said.

The council in November placed a moratorium on permits for station mini-marts until it could draft a ban on joint sales of gas and alcohol.

'Consensus in Community'

"Our concern (in approving a ban) is for public safety," said Dorothy Eldan Harris, chairwoman of the city Planning Commission. "I think (the commission) realizes there is a consensus in the community that drinking and driving don't mix."

However, critics of the proposal--including oil companies--contend that the ban would strike a financial blow to station owners and that there is no hard evidence linking mini-mart alcohol sales to increases in drunk driving.

The state does not keep figures on gas station alcohol sales, but Atlantic Richfield Co. spokesman Alan Greenstein said such sales make up about 20% of an owner's income. That could mean about $30,000 a year in lost revenue to each store, he said.

Greenstein also called the ban a "symbolic gesture."

"There is really little difference in driving to a Thrifty or a Ralphs (to buy alcoholic beverages)," said Greenstein, whose company has two mini-mart franchises in Culver City and about 500 statewide.

"We're not saying that people won't open a can of beer in their cars after buying it. There's just no special case for stores at service stations."

A study conducted last year by Arco said that only 1% of customers at the AM-PM stores buy alcohol and gasoline at the same time.

Berkeley Study

But a 1985 study by the Prevention Research Center in Berkeley said that from 15% to 30% of customers of gasoline mini-marts in Davis and Berkeley bought beer or wine when they bought gas.

And a survey conducted last year by the Orange County Alcoholism Advisory Board found that half of the motorists arrested for drunk driving in the county said they bought their alcohol at a gas station mini-mart.

Although drunk driving arrests in Culver City increased from 367 in 1984 to 471 in 1985, police have no evidence that the sale of alcohol at gas stations contributed to the problem, said Culver City police Lt. Don Ericsson.

City Councilman Paul Netzel said that despite conflicting study findings, he supports the proposal.

"There may not be empirical evidence to support that contention (that it does not make sense to sell alcohol and gasoline at the same location)," he said, "but it's a common sense issue that the sale of alcoholic beverages at the same time people are filling up their tanks . . . are quite inconsistent with each other."

The Assembly is considering a statewide ban on mini-mart alcohol sales. The bill by Assemblywoman Jean M. Duffy (D-Citrus Heights) is similar to the Culver City proposal and would supersede it if it is enacted. Similar bans have been adopted by the cities of Newport Beach and Yorba Linda, both in Orange County. Los Angeles is also considering a no-sale law.

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