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    San Jose Gas Stations May Sell Alcohol

    Current laws allow limited food sales only.

    SAN JOSE, Calif. -- San Jose will take a new look today at an ordinance that prohibits gas stations from selling food and alcohol, a ban that three council members say is obsolete and deprives the city of sales tax revenue.

    While backed by many gas station operators, removing the ban is strongly opposed by such groups as Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Traffic Safe Communities Network. They argue that the city doesn't need more places to buy alcohol and that lifting the ban sends the wrong message to teens and young adults, the San Jose Mercury News.

    But some San Jose officials say the ban is no longer needed because the city and state have other rules to control alcohol sales that didn't exist in 1985, when the ban was enacted. The ban grew out of a concern from residents about a growing number of gas station convenience stores that sold alcohol. Neighbors complained that those stores were magnets for crime.

    In 1990, the city adopted an ordinance that required a special permit -- called a conditional use permit -- for new businesses that want to sell alcohol. While the state approves liquor licenses, cities can reduce the hours of sales, limit sales to beer and wine and deny permits to businesses too close to schools and child care centers. Some station owners say the city's ban keeps them from upgrading their businesses and stifles competition.

    "What we're trying to do is take care of some of our blighted service stations," said Tom Saggau, a consultant with Platinum Advisors, representing BP and ARCO gas stations in San Jose.

    Stations that were grandfathered in when the ban was approved could lose their ability to sell liquor if they renovate their buildings. Under the current ordinance, they would have to apply for a conditional use permit to keep selling alcohol. New stations are reluctant to come to San Jose if they can't sell food and alcohol, Saggau said, which creates a loss to the city's general fund. Each new store provides construction jobs and $100,000 a year in sales tax revenue, he said.

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