El Cajon City Council passes controversial alcohol ordinance

EL CAJON, Calif. - A controversial alcohol ordinance was unanimously approved in El Cajon on Tuesday after hours of impassioned pleas by both residents and business owners with very different points of view.

Rob Hall was one of more than 200 people who attended Tuesday's city council meeting.

"The only people who buy these are people who want to get drunk as cheaply as possible or are providing them to kids who drink these," said Hall, referring to miniature liquor bottles.

Hall brought two bags full of the small empty bottles so El Cajon city leaders could see what he sees around his home every day.

"This is about homeless people drinking in public," he said. "This is about kids drinking and having easy access to these products."

Business owners say they, too, are affected.

"I am tired of the fact that clients don't want to come to my office during the evening when I need to have extended hours because of the homeless people that are drunk," said business owner Christina Park.

The city council unanimously passed the law that will crack down on stores selling alcohol to minors and people on a do-not-sell list of repeat offenders. It would impose fines in its second year and even shut down repeat violators.

New stores face a long list of restrictions including selling fortified wines and miniature bottles of alcohol.

Mark Arabo, who is with the Neighborhood Market Association, represents more than 2,000 retailers and 20,000 in three states. He said the ordinance is a government overreach.

"How can punish a store owner for illegal parking on the outside? For loud noises outside? So the problem with this ordinance is that they took code compliance issues and combined them with alcohol issues," he said.

The new ordinance goes into effect Nov. 1.

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