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SAN JOSE -- Go to the Costco in San Jose, and you can load up on groceries, buy a case of beer and fill up your tank with gas in a single trip. Go to the typical San Jose gas station and you can buy gas and perhaps a candy bar or soda, but little else.
Gas station and convenience store operators complain this is unfair. So they're pressing the city to lift an 18-year-old ban on alcohol and most food sales at gas stations, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
Critics counter that there already are plenty of places to buy alcohol, and they say reversing the ban could increase drunken driving and crime. San Jose City Council members debated the issue for the first time Tuesday and took no vote. They are expected to consider it again in a month, after city staff researches possible revisions to the ban.
"If this rule isn't changed we are put at a gigantic competitive disadvantage," said Tom Robinson, chief executive officer of Robinson Oil Companies, which owns 10 Rotten Robbie's gas stations in San Jose. Rotten Robbie's and BP are among gas station operators pushing for the change.
But critics such as Rogelio Balderas, a program analyst for Santa Clara County's Department of Alcohol and Drug Services, say that changing the city ordinance would be a mistake. "It's bad public policy," he told the San Jose Mercury News.. "It's just inconsistent with what driving should be about."
Robinson raised the issue in January after seeing a nearby Costco building a gas station near its warehouse. Costco was only able to build the adjoining gas station because it is on a separate parcel from the warehouse, city planners told him. Supporters, including LeZotte, say gas stations in San Jose have been inadvertently punished by the food-and-alcohol ban, approved in 1985 at the urging of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. As gas stations nationwide have gotten rid of mechanical shops and replaced them with convenience stores, stations in San Jose have been allowed only to sell gas.