February 6, 2013
BevMo!—the spirits-wine-microbrew-soda superstore that’s taking over the West—is scheduled to set up an outpost in The Barnyard Shopping Center in Carmel.
Only a group of locals is not exactly celebrating the idea with a toast.
Citing a rash of local youth binge drinking, one Carmel gadfly organizing against its arrival, Margaret Robbins, says, "We have an overabundance of places to buy alcohol at the mouth of the valley and Carmel."
Since the Barnyard is in an unincorporated part of the county, that’ll make for a lively supes meeting Tuesday, Feb. 12. Robbins is among the many planning on showing up.
Dave Potter is the supervisor for Carmel's fifth district. He doesn't seem too keen on bringing a selection of what the BevMo! website calls "the leading alcoholic beverage-lifestyle specialty retailer in the western United States and among the largest in the country" to town either.
"I don't see anyone in the community saying, 'There's just not enough places to buy beer,'" he says.
"I'm not going to support this, there's no community support," he continues. "I like a cold beer as much as the next guy, but I'll get it at Bruno's."
Underage drinking is an issue for Potter too, and one that trumps any potential tax income: "I think the social argument wins over profit," he says.
While Carmel Unified School District is careful to indicate the school district is not taking any official stance, Director of Student Services Heath Rocha says the district is "concerned" about binge drinking.
"Carmel students do use at a higher rate than state average," he says. "I don't know of another district that does more to deter it, but it's concerned citizens leading the effort [to block BevMo!]; the district doesn't have a position."
He's certainly right about the deterrents. The CUSD prevention/intervention diagram he sent me lists no fewer than a dozen different initiatives, ranging from sober grad night to ninth grade alcohol education to a social norms campaign.
Kris Mulkey, director of public relations at BevMo!, has run into neighborhood associations opposing her stores before, but feels a little bit of communication will smooth things out.
"When we explain what kind of store we have and how we're IDing all people under 21—unless they're a small child—at the door, communities come around," she says, "If there's a group where anyone looks under 40, the whole group gets carded, which can get a little sticky, but we don't want someone handing it off in the parking lot. It might even be people [who look] under 50. Some get miffed, but it's our policy."
She has heard rumblings-by-the-sea, but isn't worried about roadblocks: "I heard there's some concern with the high school. We're so strict about [IDs] it's not even a concern for us. They're not even allowed to buy a soda."
She thinks part of the drama is a case of mistaken identity.
"We're not selling cigarettes and newspapers like a corner liquor store," she says. "That's not the customer we're going after—the guy who wants a single in a bag. Our customers want more than that—the interesting, trendy stuff that we sell the most of. We're after the craft cocktail expert and the microbeer enthusiast."
Tentative open date is late April.
Sara Rubin contributed to this story.