As San Jose city officials push for a more vibrant downtown, Councilman Raul Peralez wants to expand the number of businesses allowed to sell alcohol.
In a recently released memo, Peralez asks that the city create criteria for, “on-premise alcohol sales for both crime index and undue concentration in the Downtown Entertainment Zone.” According to the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control, a business’ license can be denied if it would create a problem for law enforcement or would add to an “undue concentration” of licenses in the area.
According to the state, the crime index and undue concentration means:
- The applicant is in a crime reporting district with a 20 percent greater number of crimes than the average number of crimes in all reporting districts in a law enforcement agency’s jurisdiction.
- The ratio of on-sale retail licenses-to-population in the tract where the applicant is outnumbers the ratio of on-sale retail licenses-to-population in the county where the applicant is located.
But while cities may have some restrictions from the state as to how many liquor licenses they give out, they also have the power to determine if the public would be better served by handing out a license. That’s what Peralez wants to do with these new criteria.
“Downtown is currently in a renaissance of exciting food and entertainment concepts, with more potential businesses looking to plant roots in,” Peralez wrote. “However, blanket state policies have constrained our police department from being able to permit these projects when their professional input is requested by either the planning department or Alcoholic Beverage Control.”
Eddie Truong, the director of government and community relations at the Silicon Valley Organization, said that this is something that San Jose should have been looking at some time ago. The SVO is the region’s largest chamber of commerce and represents around 1,200 local businesses.
“Many small businesses, particularly restaurants, struggle with the number of sales and getting enough foot traffic into the restaurant,” he said.
Truong adds that many years ago the city prepared for a denser and more urbanized downtown in its general plan. But many restaurants have been struggling in recent years, including San Jose icon Original Joe’s, which closed its lunch time service this year largely because of the new minimum wage. “It makes sense for us to look at the whole set of regulations to increase pedestrian foot traffic,” he said. “I think of this as the natural evolution as we urbanize the downtown core.
Rick Jensen of the San Jose Downtown Association said that they also support the initiative, adding that Peralez is “uniquely qualified” to add his input because of his background as a police officer. “The issue is that police are bound to reject applications for liquor licenses based solely on location,” Jensen said. “Some rules and guidelines needs to change to welcome business, welcome restaurants, welcome night life and welcome more customers coming downtown.”
But while Peralez wants to give officials more “flexibility” when giving out liquor licenses, he’s also not looking to have a negative impact on the downtown area.
“Let us be clear,” he wrote in his memo. “We are not asking for the flood gates to open and allow Downtown to suddenly become the wild west of bars and night clubs. On the contrary, SJPD should continue to exercise their professional opinion when scrutinizing a potential operation.”