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Parents Protest Store’s Plan to Sell Alcohol Near School

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Selling alcohol for 99 cents will draw “transients and homeless people” too close to Wiley Canyon Elementary School and put children at risk, protested parents who picketed the store’s grand opening Thursday.

The manager of the 99 Only store, which is applying for a license to sell beer and wine, said that selling low-priced alcoholic drinks poses no threat to the elementary school students, calling the parents group uninformed about the store’s policies.

“We’re a family store,” said Steven James, the store’s manager. “We want to make it safe for families to shop here. We’d be shooting ourselves in the foot if we didn’t.”

The 99 Only store on the corner of Wiley Canyon Road and Lyons Avenue, only a block from the school, is part of a 46-store chain in Southern California that sells all merchandise for 99 cents. About 350 shoppers waited in line Thursday for the opening of the Newhall store.

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Instead of carrying shopping bags, Sally Swiatek and six other parents stood apart and carried protest signs. Members of the group, all of whom have children who attend Wiley Canyon Elementary, complained that if the store is allowed to sell alcohol, their children may have to walk past drunks on their way to and from school.

Two months ago, the 99 Only chain sent fliers to residents of the area stating that the company was applying to the state’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) for a permit to sell beer and wine. The permit would not authorize sales of hard liquor.

No ABC representatives were available for comment Thursday.

According to Swiatek, upon reading the company’s flier, she immediately began organizing the protest group. Swiatek and the group filed a 600-signature petition with the ABC asking the agency to reject the company’s application, Swiatek said.

Stevens said the company has no intention of withdrawing its application because there is no threat to children from selling low-priced beer and wine. The store will comply with the state law that obliges merchants to refuse to sell alcohol to anyone who appears to be a habitual user or is intoxicated, Stevens said.

Arguing that there are already stores in the area that sell alcohol, he pointed to a supermarket across the street from his store and said: “You can walk in there right now and buy a cold beer for under a dollar.”

“We sell only warm alcohol products, which will discourage people from drinking them in the area. They will have to take them home and refrigerate them first. We are the only company in the country that does that voluntarily.”

The Santa Clarita City Council will vote Tuesday on whether to oppose the store’s application before the ABC, said city spokeswoman Gail Ortiz.


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