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Council backs liquor & beer license for Cigarette City
Cigarette City, 1152 W. Yosemite Ave., is seeking an off-sale liquor and beer license. - photo by DENNIS WYATT
Cigarette City is tucked away in a small strip center behind Western Family Dental on the southeast corner of Union Road and West Yosemite Avenue.

There are four stores selling both liquor and beer within a 1.5 block radius including Save Mart, Rite Aid, Miner Mart Liquors, and a liquor store in the Manteca Marketplace. Another three locations within two blocks sell beer.

Cigarette City owner Himayatulla Hotaki wants to go into the full service liquor store business.

Police Chief Dave Bricker recommended that the City Council not adopt a resolution that indicated there was a convenience or necessity for the issuance of the license. The police chief based that on state Alcoholic Beverage Commission guidelines about the number of liquor and beer establishments within a specific census tract.

The City Council, though, disagreed with Bricker and adopted the resolution on Tuesday.

“Why do we want to interfere with free enterprise when a person thinks he can make a dollar against the big guys?” Mayor Willie Weatherford asked.

The mayor moved to OK the resolution after quizzing Bricker on whether there were any major problems at Cigarette City or nearby establishments selling off sale liquor. Bricker said there wasn’t.

The council voted 4-1 with Vince Hernandez dissenting to forward a favorable recommendation to the ABC board for Cigarette City to sell liquor and beer. Even then, as Bricker noted, the ABC can do what they want regardless of Manteca’s position since it is only an advisory recommendation.

The census tract guideline was developed after the Los Angeles Riots in 1966 and the San Francisco Hunters Point Riots in 1967 when a blue ribbon commission concluded that the easy access to liquor and beer fueled the violence.

Weatherford noted census tracts are arbitrary noting that the one covering Manteca east of the freeway also supposedly had too many but they were bunched along East Yosemite Avenue a mile away from where the applicant Manteca Groceries and Liquor at Cottage and Louise avenues was seeking a license.

Prior to the vote, citizen activist Joe DeAngelis asked the council whether a “big corporation is treated the same as a small guy.”

In a previous debate about another small retailer, the council had an animated give and take but no such exchange occurred when Costco applied for their permit.

Previous councils have tried to block permits when beer and liquor is sold in combination with gas at convenience stores. There have also been several sharp debates over additional licenses in the central district after drinking became a problem at Library Park and Southside Park.

Trying to restrict the availability of liquor, though, in downtown Manteca is problematic. While those who oppose more liquor licenses as a weakening of standards protecting the community such as Hernandez, there is a big need for restaurants to offer sprits with meals in order to attract clientele and be profitable enough to survive. While liquor stores offer off-sale or packaged liquor, restaurants have what is called on-sale liquor since they serve it by the glass.

Critics of such an approach point out that it discriminates against lower-income drinkers who typically don’t frequent restaurants. There are residents, especially who reside near Southside Park, who see things differently point out that a number of people who purchase bottles or cans of liquor and beer will go to the park and illegally drink.

Illegal drinking in the park, as well as gang issues, are the reasons why Southside and Library parks will receive the city’s first in-park camera security system monitored by police dispatch.