HESPERIA — Retailers who sell alcohol will face a new ordinance this summer after a lengthy discussion by the City Council earlier this week.
The Council voted 3-2 for the new alcohol sales ordinance on Tuesday, but not before several members of the public and a few liquor store owners spoke their mind.
The crux of the ordinance bans the sale of single-serve alcoholic beverages to new retailers who have yet to apply for permits. It does not directly affect approximately 60 liquor outlets who do business in Hesperia.
The Council amended the Planning Commission’s ordinance after a few Council members considered the proposed law “overreaching,” with Mayor Paul Russ calling it, “Too much government regulation.”
Some of the amendments that hit the cutting room floor included issues with signage, the sale of cups and drug paraphernalia, and limitations on window coverage.
A staff report revealed 884 calls for Sheriff’s Department service for “transient and public intoxication” in Hesperia in a one-year period, with taxpayers paying $235,000 in deputy “man hours.” Liquor stores generate $1.5 million in sales tax revenue annually to the city.
“We have a problem with the homeless, the same people that bother you outside of stores,” Russ said. “Liquor is attractive to them and I don’t want to feed into their problem. They don’t make for a better community.”
Joann Medina, a store manager with a local 24-hour Walgreens, pleaded with the Council to pass the ordinance for the safety of her graveyard team who face the “happy drunk,” “sad drunk” and “combative drunk” who have broken windows at the store.
Several other residents also asked the Council to approve the ordinance, with many saying the Council must take control of the situation that seems to be worsening with each passing year.
Eric Amundson, an Apple Valley resident who works for AMPM, warned the Council that a restrictive ordinance would prevent businesses such as Bev Mo and Trader Joe’s from moving to Hesperia.
Azhar Alberre, co-owner of Porgie’s Liquor on Main Street, said strict ordinances make it difficult for people to attain the “American dream.”
In response to Mayor Pro Tem Russ Blewett’s comments regarding the homeless and transients who disturb customers near Porgie’s, Alberrie said, “Mr. Blewett, I’m sorry, but you have offended us in more ways,” Alberre said. “You made us look like villains, but we are caring, loving church-going people and not the enemy.
“My uncle came from Syria years ago. He was a principal of a high school and junior high,” Alberrie said. “His dream was to open a liquor store. Sorry you are offended, but this is who we are.”
Several residents said the city has too many liquor stores and snickered when they discovered that there are four more projects that are in the planning stages.
In 2015, Blewett requested the City Attorney’s office to prepare an ordinance that would prohibit the sale of single-serve containers of alcohol. Several cities in California have adopted such bans, including Victorville, San Bernardino, Ontario, Rancho Cucamonga and Redlands.
Rene Ray De La Cruz may be reached at 760-951-6227, RDeLa Cruz@VVDailyPress.com or on Twitter@DP_ReneDeLaCruz.