By Tony de Garate
The final hours are winding down on a 30-day period to protest an application to sell beer, wine and spirits at a future CVS Pharmacy at 4949 Santa Monica Ave., according to the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC).
June 26 is the last day ABC will allow any citizen to protest the sale of alcohol at CVS, which is planning to take over the building that has been lifeless since the departure of Apple Tree Market at the end of 2012.
Protest forms are available at abc.ca.gov and may be hand delivered or submitted by fax or email. As of last week, no one had filed a protest, confirmed Maritza Gonzalez, an ABC licensing representative, in an email.
Though the chain hasn’t said so explicitly, CVS apparently has been confident of an outcome in its favor. Two signs on the front wall of the former Apple Tree market offer telltale clues that reveal the pharmacy’s cheery outlook.
Last month, CVS formally applied for the license and posted a legally required notice in the front window of the former Apple Tree market. When the pharmacy confirmed last September it was pursuing a lease on the long-vacant building, it stressed it would only do so if granted the right to sell alcohol.
As if to declare the license a foregone conclusion, an eye-catching, red-and-white banner announcing “CVS Pharmacy – Coming Soon” was also posted on the same wall high above the license application notice.
If CVS survives the protest period, it would likely receive a license in 55 to 65 days. A protest, on the other hand, if found to be valid and not withdrawn after negotiations, could result in several months of investigations, hearings and appeals, according to an ABC flow chart that outlines the steps in the determination of a liquor license application.
And, unless CVS has had a change of heart since last year, the chain won’t open shop without a liquor. (Steve Laub, president and owner of Land Solutions, Inc., a local project management consulting firm overseeing the permitting process for CVS, did not return phone calls or emails for this story.)
CVS’s application to sell liquor comes five months after the pharmacy obtained resolutions of support from two community groups – the Ocean Beach Planning Board and Ocean Beach Mainstreet Association. That support was crucial because the property resides in a census tract that has more liquor licenses than the state allows.
Such a condition requires preapproval from the San Diego Police’s Vice Permits and Licensing Unit, known as a finding of “public convenience or necessity.”
Police made that finding in CVS’s favor earlier this year, citing community support and the chain’s acceptance of a Community Benefits Package that was proposed by the Ocean Beach Town Council.
Before applying for the liquor license, CVS negotiated a lease agreement with the building’s Los Angeles-based owner, Elliot Megdal of Megdal and Associates.