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Petaluma council reverses planners' denial of liquor license for new Target

When the Petaluma Target opens next month, shoppers will be able to pick up a six-pack of beer or a bottle of wine in addition to socks and T-shirts.

The City Council this week approved the national retailer's liquor license, overturning a Planning Commission rejection in May.

The planning board ruled, 4-2, that the Target location was too close to the swim center, a church and a charter school to allow the sales of beer or wine.

But in Target's appeal, attorney Beth Aboulafia noted that the commission already approved off-sale beer and wine licenses to Sprouts and BevMo, which are also in East Washington Place shopping center and are as close, or even closer, to those perceived sensitive locations as Target is.

Planners in part based their opposition on state Alcoholic Beverage Control numbers that indicate there are too many outlets where alcohol is available in the areas surrounding Target.

The issue is similar to that of Big Lots in Santa Rosa, whose beer and wine license request was denied, with Santa Rosa's City Council citing a high-crime area, particularly alcohol-related, along Mendocino Avenue.

According to ABC figures, there should be seven alcohol sales outlets in the area around Highway 101 and East Washington Place. There are 22, including Sprouts and BevMo.

But in rejecting the commission's findings, 6-1, the council dismissed concerns of an undue concentration of alcohol sales. Petaluma police raised no concerns about another alcohol outlet.

Councilwoman Kathy Miller noted that the ABC-defined zone covers much of central Petaluma.

“It does sound like there are an awful lot of these businesses selling alcohol in this area,” she said, “but it really encompasses most of the business district of town — and the restaurants, and the bars, and the grocery stores.”

Planners also found that the license wasn't necessary because alcohol amounts to only 2 percent of Target's overall sales.

But the convenience of being able to purchase a variety of household products in one place is a hallmark of Target's business model, Aboulafia said.

“A significant component of this new Target store will be its grocery section,” she said. “The ability to purchase beer and wine along with groceries is a commonplace convenience that customers expect. It's something Target customers in particular expect.”

Targets in Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, Novato and Napa all sell alcohol.

Councilwoman Teresa Barrett voted against the license, saying there was no public necessity for the permit, given that there are already three times the number of permits than the ABC deems appropriate.

(You can reach Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 762-7297 or lori.carter@pressdemocrat.com)

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