7-Eleven deal still in the works

A bid to transform La Cañada Liquor on Foothill Boulevard into a 7-Eleven convenience store remains in play, but city zoning restrictions and a possible public hearing remain as likely hurdles, according to officials.

The Valley Sun reported last month that the convenience store chain has initiated a lengthy California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) approval process for a deal that would transfer La Cañada Liquor’s state liquor-sales license to 7-Eleven for $280,000.

At that time, La Cañada Liquor owner Wilton Briscoe said he did not believe an agreement to transfer control of the 1535 Foothill Blvd. store would be reached, and a 7-Eleven spokesperson offered no comment.

But this week, city Planning Director Robert Stanley told the paper that representatives of the chain have requested a meeting with Planning Department officials to inquire whether permits could be obtained for remodeling at the location, which has operated as a liquor store for decades near the intersection of Alta Canyada Road.

Convenience stores of the familiar 7-Eleven model are forbidden under city zoning code, according to Stanley, so any new owner would have to maintain at least 60% retail liquor sales at the location or pursue a retail concept that does not include alcohol.

A spokesperson for 7-Eleven said last month, however, the chain has become increasingly flexible about changing store concepts to fit the particular communities’ needs — incorporating a coffee shop-style study area into one college campus location and changing inventory to suit other areas.

Briscoe could not be reached for comment for this article.

Before any zoning issues are confronted, the ABC must first approve the transfer, a process that might include a public hearing by that agency and will likely give City Council members a chance to provide their input.

Following publication of the earlier article, residents filed protests against the transfer with the ABC, which ABC spokesman John Carr said could possibly trigger a public hearing.

“We received two letters, and we’re looking at them. We haven’t yet made a determination on validation [of the license transfer] or not,” Carr said.

Stanley said that La Cañada City Council members will also be given the chance to influence ABC’s decision making by weighing in about whether the area has an over-concentration of liquor licenses or a higher-than-usual rate of reported crimes.

“If they want to get building permits, they may not be able to do that until they have this finding made by the council,” Stanley said.

City Council members Laura Olhasso, Donald Voss and Michael Davitt said they have heard from several residents opposed to a license transfer.

“Obviously, I have concerns about taking a locally owned store and changing it to a corporate-type environment that might not be good for the community,” said Davitt.

Voss said that local opposition and city requirements would pose a significant challenge for 7-Eleven.

“There’s a whole series of hurdles that a convenience store like 7-Eleven would have to cross to establish itself in La Cañada. For a store of that nature to come into the city is not something people have embraced,” he said.

Copyright © 2019, La Cañada Valley Sun
EDITION: California | U.S. & World