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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Bayview Community Leaders Want Fresh & Easy to Halt Alcohol Sales

Posted By on Thu, Aug 25, 2011 at 7:00 AM

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Days after violent fights broke out as the 49ers played the Raiders at Candlestick park Saturday, officials pledged to crack down on tailgating and alcohol abuse at games -- and they aren't the only ones. Bayview religious and community leaders are demanding that the new Fresh & Easy supermarket on Third and Carroll streets -- about a mile from the stadium -- remove alcohol from its shelves.

The coalition argues that Fresh & Easy's self check-out model is can easily be abused by minors.

"According to multiple independent studies, the machines fail about 20 percent of the time," Reverend Carol Been, senior organizer of Clergy & Laity United for Economic Justice, told SF Weekly. "But Fresh & Easy is pretty adamant that they think it's safe."

Indeed, Fresh & Easy representative Brendan Wonnacott says since November 2007, the supermarket has only had two violations of selling alcohol to a minor. Both times, he stresses, it was not due to machine failure. When an alcohol beverage is scanned by the machine, the system locks down and calls over a representative who must override the system manually. In both violations, Wonnacott says, the representative made the mistake.

"There's a face-to-face interaction," he says. "It's virtually no different than any other check stand."

Wonnacott adds that Fresh & Easy has updated its system so that alcohol-sized beverages, such as Izzy soda, which is similar to a beer can, will also lock the system so there's no chance that a minor will scan a six-pack of soda and then bag a six-pack of beer.

"Studies have showed that 90 percent of violations for selling alcohol to minors happen at liquor stores and convenient stores," he says. "From 2008 to 2010 only two violations for selling alcohol to a minor were at a supermarket or a specialty store like Trader Joe's."

According to Been, the religious and community leaders have not been speaking with any of the 90 or so liquor stores in the Bayview, but she says that's because they're only concerned with the self-check model.

However, it seems that the coalition is targeting Fresh & Easy. Been says they are also concerned that the supermarket will not hire locally, and will not honor WIC vouchers, a federal assistance program that provides fresh food to mothers, babies, and young children who are malnourished.

Fresh & Easy has responded saying that 52 percent of employees are from the Bayview area, and that they have already applied to be a WIC-approved store. "We look forward to becoming a WIC vender at this location as soon as possible," Fresh & Easy CEO Tim Mason writes in a letter to the community leaders.

Been is not mollified, though. "It took them a long time just to communicate with us," she says. "Also, some of the people hired have already been let go, so we will be following up. What we want to make sure is that in six months, those jobs are still local."

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Caroline Chen

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