Counterpoint: Proliferation of liquor licenses not to blame for Pacific Beach crime rates
by DAVE SCHWAB
Published - 09/03/20 - 08:00 AM | 5661 views | 1 1 comments | 46 46 recommendations | email to a friend | print
New outdoor seating at Isabel’s Cantina at 966 Felspar St. COURTESY PHOTO
New outdoor seating at Isabel’s Cantina at 966 Felspar St. COURTESY PHOTO
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Not everyone in Pacific Beach is convinced alcohol-related business is largely responsible for continuing high violent crime rates there.

“Blaming the on-site liquor licenses is crying wolf,” argues PB community activist Regina Sinsky-Crosby. “If you want to blame anything for crime in PB, blame the beach. PB is an urban beach district, not some sort of suburb that needs to be ‘protected,’ with an accessible freeway ramp, accessible beaches, and, somehow, unlimited free parking.”

Added Sinsky-Crosby: “On average 100,000 people come here on the weekends. Whenever you have more people you will have more crime. We live in a really cool, beautiful, and fun neighborhood. We're not a gated community, despite the wishes of a handful of residents."

Isabel Cruz has owned Isabel’s Cantina at 966 Felspar St. for about 20 years. Having had an extremely difficult time getting an alcohol license years ago, Cruz pointed out who gets alcohol licenses is just as, or more important, than the number of licenses granted.

"During our painful two-year battle, which almost bankrupted us ... the reasons for not issuing licensing (then) were pretty much the same as they are now – over-concentration of licenses and high crimes,” Cruz said. “This reasoning that licenses and high crime are connected, makes little sense once you look into it. There is little to no correlation between a nice restaurant, and the crimes committed in PB."

Added Cruz: "When we did our research, crime had nothing to do with restaurants and little to do with bars. Instead, a good percentage of the crimes were related to ticketing and enforcement against unhoused individuals. Most of the crimes were committed on specific holidays. These violations were committed by persons primarily not from PB.” 

Pacific Beach has ranked second behind only East Village out of 125 San Diego communities in violent crimes reported by police the past three years. Statistics from 2009 to 2018 reflect that PB’s average number of violent crimes has consistently been as much as three to six times the citywide average, which ranged from 41.5 to 48.2 violent crimes per year during that time period.

Violent crimes include murder, rapes, armed robberies, and aggravated assaults, with assaults making up most of the violent crime numbers. The standard thinking has been that over saturation of alcohol licenses in PB is behind the continuing high crime numbers.

Sinsky-Crosby disagreed PB has too many alcohol licenses.

"We are not over-saturated with alcohol licenses,” she contended. “What we have in PB is a saturation of humans, tens of thousands of them, coming here on weekends. When it's a beautiful sunny day, PB is where people want to be. More people, more crime. Crimes are committed by people, not alcohol licenses."

So making it harder to acquire alcohol licenses is not the answer to high crime?

"Making it harder to acquire alcohol licenses in PB will only make it less attractive for amazing local chefs and restaurants to want to set up shop,” said Sinsky-Crosby. “Covid-19 continues to plague our food and beverage scene and it won't be over for the foreseeable future. The last thing restaurants and bars need is more red tape, and the last thing PB needs is more vacant commercial space."

Cruz concurred.

"I'm not saying there aren’t a few nuisance bars (noisy, kids being obnoxious, leaving trash around) but that’s probably because years ago those liquor licenses came with either late closing times, are in giant spaces or both,” she said. “This has nothing to do with a nice restaurant that closes at 10 p.m.

“By holding back licensing with reasonable closing times to new operators, the powers that be have effectively created a monopoly for some of the worst offenders while making them rich at the same time. Nice businesses where responsible operators are focused on food should be allowed to have alcohol licenses. Having a cocktail with a nice dinner isn’t where the problems are coming from." 

Added Cruz: "There needs to be more equality for women and minorities when it comes to alcohol licensing by the beach. As it stands right now, alcohol licenses are going to one demographic, and I am not a part of that one. As far as the over-concentration of licenses, it makes sense that there will be a concentration of licenses in a business district. You can go to just about any thriving business district in the world, and you will see a concentration of alcohol licenses." 

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Jack Floyd
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September 06, 2020
Of course liquor stores account for the direct sales of alcohol to customers who most often loiter, get drunk and generate assaults, and this is the main problem. Bars also have a large assault rate. There should be a tiered licensing system to show more community support for restaurants that serve alcohol and that results in lower numbers of bars and liquor stores.

Restaurants, bars and liquor stores should also pay a relevant fee for the number of assault-related and disorderly conduct-related police calls nearest to their individual locations. Why should these expenses be shouldered by the entire population when it's obvious that only specific types of businesses profit from selling the loco-juice and firewater that is directly responsible for lunatic antics that require emergency services and that often result in severe injuries and deaths?
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