SAN FRANCISCO — In a victory for supporters of a crackdown on petty crime around liquor stores, a state appellate court Monday rejected key legal challenges to an Oakland law requiring alcohol retailers to pay the price of policing their establishments.
Turning down major arguments from the alcohol industry, the 1st District Court of Appeal ruled that Oakland has a right to protect public health and safety. The city is not intruding on the state’s power to regulate alcohol retailers by imposing local standards and fees, the three-judge panel said.
The court’s decision clears the way for Oakland to charge owners of bars and liquor stores $600 a year to pay for police and city services, including hearing for owners accused of violating nuisance standards.
“It’s a major win for cities and county governments around the state,” said Dan Siegel, an attorney representing the Coalition of Alcohol Outlets. He said about three dozen California cities eager to pass similar laws have been waiting for a decision on the Oakland measure.
All liquor stores would pay the annual fee. In addition, under the law the city can cite alcohol retailers who fail to control excessive loitering, drug dealing, vandalism, prostitution and public drunkenness around their property, and order them to provide lighting, clean up litter, remove payphones used for drug deals, or hire a security guard.
Deputy City Attorney Mark Wald said enforcement of the law could begin as early as July.
Renee Wasserman, an attorney representing the California Beverage Retailer Coalition, could not be reached for comment Monday. However, the coalition’s chairman, Don Beaver, said the organization would appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court.
“I’m dumbfounded,” Beaver said. “If law enforcement cannot deal with the problems, how can they expect shop owners to deal with them?”
Cloyce Kizzee, owner of Mr. Gee’s Patio bar in East Oakland, said when he tried to confront a couple making a nuisance outside his establishment last year, he was severely beaten.
“I tried to do what the permit said, and I was threatened,” he said. “We have a responsibility, but we don’t have control over all the ills of society.”
The measure passed in 1993 after citizens groups and law enforcement authorities complained that “problem liquor stores” got a disproportionate number of police calls. But the alcohol industry challenged the law, and tied it up in the court for three years.