The Reader Edited Out Author’s “Favorite Part” on His OB CVS Article

by on December 9, 2014 · 12 comments

in Economy, Ocean Beach

OB CVS Dec 2014 tdgarateEditor: Our friends at the San Diego Reader recently published writer Tony de Garate‘s latest update on the CVS Pharmacy coming into Ocean Beach. But they edited out his “favorite part” – a comical reference to the fact the giant drugstore may not have its alcohol license for its scheduled opening in January 2015. We now include that part in a full publication of his original piece below, with the edited out section in italics.

Maybe it’s no Boston, but the city of Lowell, Mass. is not without its charms. It’s the fourth largest city in the state and has been home to such notables as Ed McMahon, Bette Davis and Jack Kerouac. It cemented its cred for Yankee ingenuity in 1880, becoming the first city in the nation to use telephone numbers.

Today, the national retail chain CVS Pharmacy has more than 5,000 outlets, but the first one opened in 1963 in Lowell. CVS, according to “Fun Facts” on the city of Lowell’s website, was an acronym for Consumer Value Store.

Five decades later, CVS is gearing up to open its first outlet in Ocean Beach Jan. 4. But, nearly seven months after applying for a liquor license, there’s still no approval from the state Department of Alcohol Beverage Control to place beer, wine and spirits on the shelves.

Without booze, will CVS have to brace itself as people invent alternative acronyms? Instead of Consumer Value Store, will it be “Cocktail Vacant Store?”

“Community Very Sober?”

“Coke, but no Vodka or Scotch?”

As opening day tiptoes closer and closer, CVS says it’s confident of having a license in time. But if there’s a plan B in case there’s no booze, CVS is keeping it to themselves.

“We prefer not to speculate and are focused on receiving our license in time for our opening,” Mike DeAngelis, CVS director of public relations, said in an email.

When the drugstore chain first revealed more than a year ago it was sizing up the long-vacant, former Apple Tree supermarket at 4949 Santa Monica Ave. as a potential outlet, it made it clear it would only do so if alcohol was a part of its retail offering.

It seemed like a slam-dunk when CVS formally submitted an application May 15. Five months earlier, the Ocean Beach Planning Board voted to approve the license in a contentious, standing-room-only meeting. The vote was advisory-only, but the San Diego Police Department’s Vice Division subsequently gave its blessing and cited the Planning Board’s support as a big reason.

CVS gained more support when it negotiated a “community benefits package” with the Ocean Beach Town Council and Ocean Beach Mainstreet Association, in which the pharmacy chain pledged to be a responsible tenant and active member of the community. Some of CVS’s commitments included: hosting donation receptacles for the Town Council’s seasonal food and toy drive; preserving a popular existing mural on the building’s north wall unless repainted by a local artist or community fair; and allowing public use of the parking lot for special events. (CVS planned to offer free parking Dec. 6 during the 35th Annual Ocean Beach Holiday Parade, said Steve Laub, a consultant for CVS.)

Gretchen Newsom, Town Council president, said the agreement was likely the first in the nation between CVS and a community. Sharing the enthusiasm and noting the beach community’s traditional hostility to corporate chains, Laub tweeted: “…A rarity here. Great cooperation by CVS, #OBTownCouncil, #OBMainstreetAssoc.”

But many in the community still lamented the loss of the community’s only major grocery store — Apple Tree lost its lease and closed for good at the end of 2012 — and took advantage of an opportunity to file protests during a 30-day comment period. Community leaders familiar with the investigation say a total of four protests were filed, though ABC has yet to confirm the exact number.

ABC guidelines tell applicants to expect a license in as little as 55 days if there’s no protest. Estimates increase to 95 days if protests are withdrawn during the investigation. When protests are not withdrawn, ABC estimates 175 days to make a decision.

With the CVS investigation now well past the 200-day mark, there’s still no word on when ABC may issue a ruling.

“There is no set time frame for the application investigation to be completed. The application is still under investigation and I cannot provide you a possible completion date at this time,” Jennifer Hill, supervisor for ABC’s San Diego District Office, said in an email.

Hill would not say what was holding up the investigation. “Each investigation has its own circumstances that are addressed and affect the … timeline,” she said.

Denny Knox, executive director of the Mainstreet Association, said she expected CVS to eventually obtain a liquor license but suggested the length of the investigation was not fair to the drugstore chain.

“Nothing surprises me,” Knox said in an email, “(Protests) can really slow things down and cost the company a fortune in wasted time.”

In the meantime, it’s full speed ahead for pharmacy and its grand opening, Laub said. The remodel of the building, which features an all-glass front and soaring, curved roof that gives away its former identity as a Safeway supermarket, is nearly complete. Renovation efforts were careful to preserve this distinctive “Safeway Mission Architecture” which, Laub said, was named after a Safeway building on Mission Avenue in San Francisco.

CVS is hanging out the “Help Wanted” shingle next week and will accept applications on site, he said.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

OB Dude December 9, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Aaaahhhh maybe no booze but they will have rolling papers!


Christo December 9, 2014 at 1:14 pm

Rite Aid has rolling papers.

Just sayin…


Christo December 9, 2014 at 1:15 pm

And Beer


cc December 9, 2014 at 3:48 pm

still hate that a cvs opened there. Can’t believe trader joe’s or sprouts didn’t want to open up in OB. They’d make a killing, driving to point loma portal isn’t that far, but being able to walk to a grocery store would have made either company a lot of money.


objamie December 9, 2014 at 8:02 pm

The rent was 50k/mo. Cost prohibitive to both of those companies to open stores about 2 miles from where they have stores.


WantaGroceryStore December 10, 2014 at 12:24 am

Similar CVS story from another area… In South Orange County a smaller Albertsons closed and reopened as an Apple market. The small family owned store thrived for several years, as it operated in an area of town that had no other grocery store. Then Albertson parent company which also owns(owned) CVS had offered their previous landlord double the rent for their old Albertsons location, which ended up forcing out the family owned Apple market. sadly Apple closed its doors.

Now this San Clemente lot remained closed and empty for almost 2 years before the building was torn down and rebuilt, then the new CVS was opened. This was nearly right across the street from a Rite-Aid. That area of town has a MAJOR need for a grocery store, not another drug store, of course that’s right across from another drug store. Both stores sell snacks foods & almost no groceries.

Sad to say but it looks like almost the same thing is now happening here in Ocean Beach, a market is needed here, not another drug store near another drug store.


obracer December 10, 2014 at 8:20 am

““Coke, but no Vodka or Scotch?” LMFAO ! very funny & informative article
thank you Mr G


OB DUDE December 10, 2014 at 9:26 am

Agreed, another drug store is not “needed” ….no more bars are “needed” either but they keep popping up.

One can only assume that the grocery business is not profitable or at least the volume that would come out of that location would not generate an acceptable profit if any. The prior operator knows that better than anyone. If the grocery business was a good idea then he would have stayed at that location or opened on Newport in the building he owns…that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. And……they also are leasing their location which operated as a grocery store in Golden Hill to Target.

Who knows where all this will go and what if anything will happen to Rite Aid with some competition. When does Rite Aid’s lease end? Anyone know?


RB December 10, 2014 at 9:45 am

With the aging of the population and the ACA, its all about prescription drugs with high profit margins. The drug store stocks (Walgreens, CVC) are all doing well. Grocery stores are low margin business.


WantaGroceryStore December 10, 2014 at 7:19 pm

CONTINUED: The Albertson’s/Apple/CVS lot in San Clemente that’s mentioned above, several Albertson’s employees told me that even though it was their highest profit margin store in Southern California, that when Albertson’s merged with another grocery chain, both sides had agreed to close all locations that were small. and unfortunately their location fit into that small category, so they closed it. When the Apple market opened they kept many of the same ‘former employees’ and it thrived, they were happy & the community was happy. so the Apple market did not close do to lack of business or lack of profitability.

It was CVS that got into the picture. CVS not only had offered the landlord double the rent, they also paid rent there for nearly 2 years before opening up their new smaller CVS drug store. that seems a little ruthless to me. why not make an agreement and let the family owned market stay there for that extra 2 years. instead of wasting large amounts of money on an empty building/unused property??? The lot remained empty for nearly 2 years, which was certainly not a benefit to the community, no matter how you look at it…


OB DUDE December 10, 2014 at 10:12 pm

Same reason World Oil did not allow the community garden to continue at the corner of Voltaire and Sunset Cliffs. Because that is their land, their choice. OB got stuck with an ugly vacant lot at our entrance…at it’s still that way.


OB DUDE January 14, 2015 at 1:28 pm

CVS is open…..I stopped in for a quick look around today. The inside is quite a change from the old. The beams on the ceiling are gorgeous!

A very pleasant interior no one can deny that.


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