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Battle over new booze license at Milpas St. CVS

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - A liquor license years in the making is causing controversy off the Milpas Street corridor.

CVS wants to add hard liquor to its beer and wine selection and that's got one resident yelling "last call" before the city and state put pen to paper.

"They'll walk into CVS, pick up their booze, they'll park themselves over there, they'll start drinking or they'll walk over here,” said Natasha Todorovic, referring to people who frequent the lot behind CVS. 

Todorovic is a local watchdog who lives close to this particular CVS. She said she’s spent years fighting a growing number of liquor licenses granted to nearby businesses. Now, at the 11th hour, Todorovic is asking the City of Santa Barbara to “pull their letter” and block CVS’s approved license to sell hard liquor at its store on the corner of Milpas and Gutierrez Streets.

The State Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) received the city’s approval back in 2017 after negotiating certain manufacturing and sales restrictions. 

Fast-forward three years, Todorovic said crime and violence are on the rise along the 300 block of Milpas Street and neighbors are seeing an uptick in homelessless and drunkenness in the immediate area.

"It's baffling to me that our police department can't say ‘no,’ that CVS, despite having 10 stores here, needs yet another liquor license. This would be 10 out of 10 in our area,” Todorovic said. 

"This is the end of a three year litigation process with the state Alcoholic Beverage Control,” said Anthony Wagner, spokesman for the Santa Barbara Police Department (SBPD) and an expert on state alcohol control ordinances.

Wagner said it is unclear why it's taken the state nearly three and a half years to issue this particular liquor license when the process normally takes 90-days. He called it a “historic” delay by the ABC.

Wagner said the city granted the ABC’s license request in 2017 after he looked at calls for service, crime statistics, public convenience and necessity criteria, among other compliance regulations. 

“None were triggers to fail public convenience and necessity,” Wagner said. 

The SBPD and ABC came to an agreement on specific sales restrictions and the city granted the ABC’s license request. 

"Namely, that they're not able to sell single-serve beer and the lowest or smallest quantity of spirit they can sell is 750 milliliters.”

The issue goes before the ABC during a virtual hearing Monday morning, August 4. 

Article Topic Follows: Santa Barbara - South County

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Beth Farnsworth

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