A national retail pharmacy chain faced an arguably herculean task trying to convince the Laguna Beach City Council Tuesday night that it was the right business for a downtown space currently occupied by Laguna Drug.
Officials on behalf of CVS Health presented renderings of the interior and discussed some of the company’s public health initiatives, but those details were not enough to sway the council, which unanimously denied CVS’ appeal of a Planning Commission decision in June.
The commission denied CVS’ proposal to amend a conditional use permit for 239 Broadway St. Laguna Drug has operated in the spot since 2004, but has struggled to make a profit.
Much like commissioners, council members said CVS’ proposed merchandise mix did not distinguish itself enough from other downtown retailers.
Laguna does not prohibit formula-based companies from operating, but they have to meet certain criteria such as offering products that serve unmet needs of residents and enhancing the destination quality of the city’s downtown, according to the downtown specific plan.
The plan is a guide for development standards downtown.
Councilman Bob Whalen said CVS satisfied some elements of the plan, such as encouraging resident-serving businesses, but “failed significantly” in two other policies of the downtown specific plan.
“I think a pharmacy is a resident-serving business,” Whalen said, and alluded to the extended hours CVS would offer in comparison to Laguna Drug.
But “this primary core value, this uniqueness and avoiding the standardized mass-produced product … was not here in this particular application,” Whalen added.
Speakers supporting CVS said the pharmacy and store would meet practical needs such as offering office supplies including printer cartridges and having a pharmacy open on Sundays.
Laguna Drug is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, but the pharmacy is closed that day, according to the business’ website.
Laguna Drug’s permit allots 70% of product mix to silk flowers and greeting cards, according to a city staff report prepared for the June 7 Planning Commission meeting.
But Karen Martin, owner of Pacific Planning Group, Inc. who spoke on behalf of CVS, told the council that the current merchandise mix can only go so far.
“The existing CUP [conditional use permit] has a very restrictive merchandise mix,” said Martin, who lives in Laguna Beach. “It’s not a workable merchandise plan.”
CVS proposed to revise the percentage of certain goods such as more than 50% for health and beauty products and another 16% devoted to seasonal merchandise, the city staff report said.
CVS has a South Laguna location, at 30842 S. Coast Hwy.
CVS has no plans to continue trying to move into the Laguna Drug location, according to CVS public relations manager Amy Lanctot.
2:25 p.m.: This article was updated with CVS ceasing efforts to move into the Laguna Drug location.
This article was originally published at 1:50 p.m.