CVS in Santa Barbara
The CVS at 336 N. Milpas St. in Santa Barbara wants to sell hard liquor such as rum, vodka and tequila.  (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

CVS and the City of Santa Barbara have reached a last-minute deal regarding the sales of hard liquor at the Milpas Street store.

The state Alcoholic Beverage Control still must sign off on the terms of the agreement.

CVS, at 336 N. Milpas St., wants to obtain a Type 21 liquor license, which would allow it to sell hard liquor such as tequila, vodka and rum.

Eastside neighborhood activist Natasha Todorovic, however, appealed the license. She said there are already too many places that sell beer and hard liquor in the area, which creates problems with the homeless population.

“We have this never-ending flow of these drunk homeless guys,” Todorovic said. “Before they would hang out in singles or a couple of guys, and now they are hanging out in sixes or dozens.”

She said the congregation of homeless people drinking also affects the retail and commercial landscape.

“I know people who are trying to rent out space,” Todorovic said. “It is economically depressing the area.”

Anthony Wagner, public engagement manager for the Santa Barbara Police Department, wrote a letter to the ABC on Friday after negotiations with CVS’ attorney, Bruce Evans, a partner with Solomon, Saltsman & Jamieson.

According to the agreement:

» Sales and service of alcoholic beverages shall be permitted only between the hours of 10 a.m. and 10 p.m.

» No individual containers of beer or malt beverage products shall be sold, regardless of container size, unless the containers are in manufactured pre-packaged, multi-unit quantities of six or greater. This restriction applies to any beer that is not sold or marketed by the manufacturer in a multi-unit package quantity.

» No hard liquor or wine shall be sold in bottles or containers of less than 750 milliliters.

» No wine shall be sold with an alcohol content of greater than 15 percent by volume.

» CVS must police the area under its control once an hour in an effort to prevent the loitering of people about the premises.

» No single-serve, two-, three- or four-packs will  be sold on the premises.

» No greater than 10 percent of gross square footage shall be devoted to the sale and/or storage of alcohol.

In addition, the CVS parking lot shall be equipped with lighting of sufficient power “to illuminate and make easily discernible the appearance and conduct of all persons on or about the parking lot.” Additionally, the position of such lighting shall not disturb the normal privacy and use of any neighboring residences.

Both CVS and the city agreed to the terms, but Todorovic asked for a continuance.

She told Noozhawk on Monday that she is grateful to the police department for “stepping up the conditions,” calling it a “massive win for the neighborhoods that have future applicants. But those conditions, while useful for the business, still do not mitigate the harm from alcohol nor the over-concentration of liquor stores above and the limit set by the ABC in our neighborhoods.”

Todorovic first appealed the license application in 2017 when CVS took the store over from Fresh & Easy. At the time, Wagner said that Capt. Todd Stoney signed off on what’s called a “public convenience and necessity” permit. The issue disappeared for three years, Todorovic said, until June, when CVS wanted to pull a permit to sell the alcohol.

Wagner said he worked with CVS to create the new list of requirements, which are stronger than what the police department agreed to in 2017. He said that despite the presence of homeless people, the area does not have heightened crime, calls for service or liquor license saturation. 

The ABC has the power to issue liquor licenses, but the city has the ability to oppose such applications.

“The City of Santa Barbara has always tried to condition an application,” Wagner said. “This is the most stringent standard we have placed on an alcohol license to date.”

For Todorovic, the problems aren’t going away.

“Our city is working to plug a hole, but the hole still exists,” Todorovic said. “Make no mistake, this license will exacerbate the existing problems for Milpas and existing neighborhoods around it.”

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.