Planned downtown 7-Eleven won't seek liquor license

A proposed 7-Eleven in downtown Huntington Beach has withdrawn its application to sell beer and wine, according to the city's Planning and Building Department.

Assistant Planner Jill Arabe said the company sent the city a letter Friday stating that while it still hoped to open at 301 Main St., it would no longer seek a liquor license due to concerns over the prevalence of alcohol in the neighborhood.

"In response to both city staff and community comments, 7-Eleven is requesting to withdraw the application for off-site beer and wine sales," the letter read, according to Arabe.

Since 7-Eleven announced plans earlier this year to open a minimart downtown, at least 44 letters of protest have arrived at the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control — complaining about the possibility of loitering, trash and, most of all, another liquor-serving establishment in a drink-heavy neighborhood.

Give or take a few words, many of the letters are almost interchangeable: "Enough is enough! It is time to consider the quality of life for our downtown residents." ... "There is an ongoing problem with people being drunk in public in the downtown Huntington Beach area." ... "The police force is currently unable to prevent these types of behavior, so increasing the availability of package liquor at this time seems very foolish."

Daniel Kalmick, who ran for City Council in 2010 and is considering a run in 2014, wrote that 7-Eleven would exacerbate a problem he commonly sees downtown: partyers leaving the bars after midnight and then stocking up on beer at a convenience store to "continue the party."

The dominance of alcohol, Kalmick said in an interview, causes many residents to shy away from the area.

"I would like to spend more time in downtown Huntington Beach," he said. "I just don't like the way it's currently organized."

Among those who also contacted the department are the Huntington Beach Police Department, which protested the license application on the grounds that the location lacks a conditional use permit to authorize the sale of alcohol; Kim Kramer, spokesman for the Huntington Beach Downtown Residents Assn.; and David Rice, president of the grassroots group HB Neighbors.

John Tillotson, the developer of the Plaza Almeria property that hopes to add the 7-Eleven, could not be reached for comment.

In addition to 7-Eleven, another proposed downtown location, Avocado Cafe at 438 Main St., has gotten three letters of protest regarding its application to serve alcohol. One of those letters is from Police Chief Ken Small, whose department automatically protests every alcohol license application downtown and withdraws the protest if the applicant agrees to meet a list of conditions.

The department asked that Avocado Cafe limit alcohol sales from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., sell alcohol only in conjunction with sales of food and keep all alcoholic beverages inside the restaurant, among other things.

John Carr, a spokesman for the department, said no public hearings have been set yet for either 7-Eleven or Avocado Cafe. Last year, resident protests led to a hearing for the Asian restaurant Ka Shabu, which ultimately prevailed in its quest to obtain an alcohol license.

Twitter: @MichaelMillerHB

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