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Santa Maria Council Rejects Beer, Wine Sales at Chevron Station

Pacific Christian Center appeals Planning Commission OK of permit for what would have been city's first gas station to sell alcohol

A Chevron gas station with a convenience store cannot sell beer and wine, the Santa Maria City Council decided Tuesday night, supporting objections from members of the Pacific Christian Center across the street. Click to view larger
A Chevron gas station with a convenience store cannot sell beer and wine, the Santa Maria City Council decided Tuesday night, supporting objections from members of the Pacific Christian Center across the street. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

A Chevron gas station with a convenience store cannot sell beer and wine, the Santa Maria City Council decided Tuesday night, supporting objections from members of a nearby church whose pastor called it “a bad idea.”

The council considered an appeal of the Planning Commission’s Jan. 25 approval of Chevron’s request for a conditional-use permit to sell beer and wine at the existing gas station with convenience store at 3580 Santa Maria Way.

Pacific Christian Center filed the appeal, fearing intoxicated people would end up on the property, which also includes an elementary school and pre-school.

After the council's unanimous vote, church members who filled the audience applauded the decision.

Mayor Alice Patino, a former owner of a business next to a liquor store, recalled the problems she and her husband dealt with on a regular basis.

“I just don’t think it’s compatible with the church and school across the street,” Patino said. 

Pastor Rick Bloom urged the Santa Maria City Council to overturn Planning Commission approval for a Chevron gasoline station and mini-market to sell alcohol across the street from his Pacific Christian Center, calling it a ‘bad idea.’ Click to view larger
Pastor Rick Bloom urged the Santa Maria City Council to overturn Planning Commission approval for a Chevron gasoline station and mini-market to sell alcohol across the street from his Pacific Christian Center, calling it a ‘bad idea.’ (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

No other gas stations in the city sell beer and wine, which left the council wary.

Councilman Mike Cordero noted that many previous City Councils ruled against requests from other gas stations seeking to sell beer and wine.

“I think it would be a serious mistake to start selling that,” Cordero said. 

Councilman Jack Boysen said it was difficult to overturn a Planning Commission decision, adding that the panel’s members work hard before casting votes, but also noted the city’s history.

“I really think we have to be consistent within our own jurisdiction,” Boysen said. “And if we do not allow alcohol sales in other gas stations within the city limits, or we have not, I agree with Mr. Cordero that we may be opening a Pandora’s box.”

The Chevron Corporation-owned facility sought to sell beer and wine from two of six existing coolers, approximately 14 square feet.

Only prepackaged multi-packs of beer or bottles of wine would have been sold, while plans did not call for malt liquor, fortified wines or single containers of beer and wine.

Sales of liquor would not have been allowed between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m., city staff said. 

Chevron’s Juliet Don said the Santa Maria Way site would join others near Highway 101 in Carpinteria and Santa Barbara that sell alcohol. Corporate stores have strict safety protocols and procedures, she added.

“We request that the Santa Maria City Council uphold the Santa Maria Planning Commission’s approval of our conditional-use permit and to determine that none of the Planning Commission’s findings were in error,” Don said. 

Chevron staff met with  Pacific Christian Center representatives, offering to install more security cameras and prohibit sales on Wednesdays when the church hosts it weekly youth group gathering. 

More than a dozen people urged the council to reject the permit allowing alcohol sales, with the audience filled with church members.

Pastor Rick Bloom said the Pacific Christian Center, which has 1,400 members, has had incidents involving homeless people seeking to use the phone and restroom. In one incident, a transient used vile language within hearing of pre-schoolers.

“Common sense says you don’t mix gasoline and alcohol in the same facility. It just doesn’t make sense to me,” Bloom said.

“Common sense will tell me the reason we don’t have alcohol and wine sales at any gas station in Santa Maria is because it’s a bad idea. It continues to be a bad idea,” he said. “It’s never been a good idea.”

The church has seen alcohol-related tragedies in recent months.

A fatal crash involving a motorcycle linked to drunken driving occurred in front of the church in July, Bloom said. The church also hosted a funeral for one of two moms who died due to an alleged drunken driver earlier this year.

“There are horrible things happening that are alcohol-related in our city,” Bloom said.

While the gas station sits in city limits, the church falls in the unincorporated area of Santa Barbara County.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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