Los Banos City Council approved an alcohol license, despite protests from area pastors, for a market set to open in June.
The unanimous decision allows the 20,951-square-foot Dollar General Market, going up on 2.58 acres at the intersection of Mercey Springs Road and Santa Barbara Street, to sell all manner of beer, wine and spirits, provided that beer is sold in no smaller than a pack of four and wine in no smaller than 750-milliliter bottles.
"I think that this (grocery store) is going to fill a need on the north side of town to have a place that's quick and easy to do their grocery shopping," said Councilman Scott Silveira. "The liquor part of it -- that's part of business, you guys are into business to make money."
Area church leaders voiced opposition to alcohol sales. The project is a block north of New Canaan Baptist Church and south of Mercy Springs Church of the Nazarene.
The Rev. Phil Jenkins of New Canaan said while he welcomes a grocery store for families and people on the northern end of the city, he has reservations about adding alcohol to a census area that sports two already.
"There's certain things we don't need more of in our community," Jenkins said, adding that his church ministers to young people and adults who abuse alcohol.
"We just want them to think about that a little bit before they make a final decision to sell alcohol," he said.
Jenkins' feelings were echoed by the Rev. Steve Hammond of Bethel Community Church, who appeared before the council, and the Rev. John Rusk of Church of the Nazarene, who submitted a letter.
Councilwoman Deborah Lewis, who served on the planning commission when the plan was unveiled, said she remembered no plan in the original application to sell alcohol.
Steve Rawlings, a consultant for Dollar General Market, said the store will be a tenant of the building. He did not know if Arizona-based owner Evergreen Development expressed plans for alcohol originally. An Enterprise story from June 2012 reported the market planned to apply for a permit.
However, Rawlings said the standard Dollar General model of store in California offers alcohol. He said there are more than 50 in the state, and more than 10,000 nationwide.
"We have alcohol sales throughout the country, and we're very pleased with our record," he said.
The store trains employees on alcohol sales and requires verifying date of birth from every customer before a transaction is complete, Rawlings said. The spirits are maintained in a locked cabinet that requires a manager's key, and each bottle is covered by a security cap.
Dollar General Market stores offer an expanded array of home goods and clothing and grocery store items. It is a store with discounted items, not a dollar store.
Dollar General Market plans to hire 35 to 40 employees, including five full-time managers.
Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at tmiller@losbanos
Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at tmiller@losbanos enterprise.com.