The city is home to a 160-acre botanical garden and the world’s first Frisbee golf course. Property records show that 22 homes within a half-mile of the 7-Eleven sold for more than $1 million in the last year.
George Sumra opened two 7-Eleven stores in La Cañada Flintridge in 2012 as a franchisee. One was connected to a gas station, and so allowed to open. The other, at the corner of major thoroughfare Foothill Boulevard and Alta Canyada Road, had no gas pumps. But since it was on the former site of a liquor store, city officials agreed to grandfather it in as a liquor store. They required it to dedicate 60 percent of its floor space to alcohol, sell liquor in addition to beer and wine, and have the word “liquor” in its name.
The result is 7-Eleven’s only “7-Eleven Liquor” store. (There are two stores called “7-Eleven Liquor” in Arkansas and Texas but neither appears to be affiliated with the nationwide chain).
Though many 7-Eleven stores sell beer and wine, only about 6 percent in the United States sell liquor at all. Most of those limit alcohol shelf space to 10 percent or 15 percent of the store, according to Jamieson. Recently, the company has experimented with selling more alcohol, upping the number of wine varieties in stores and opening “party stores” in Michigan that dedicate more floor space to alcohol.
But 7-Eleven spokeswoman Margaret Chabris said the La Cañada Flintridge store was unique.
“Our category manager for alcohol knows of no other store we have in the U.S. that is like this or comes close to the percentage of floor space devoted to alcohol,” she said in an email.
What that precise percentage is has been a matter of heated debate. When the store opened, it had more alcohol than it does now. But city officials claim the store began lowering the amount and adding other items, crossing the line into a convenience store.
The city sent a code enforcement officer to examine the store in late 2012. The officer concluded the store wasn’t meeting the 60 percent threshold and issued $400 citations to both Sumra and Catalina Partners, which owns the ground beneath the store.
The $800 in fines drove both sides to marshal their forces.
A two-day hearing at City Hall followed, during which the city presented 19 pieces of evidence, including color photos and original floor plans, in order to show that the store wasn’t filling 60 percent of its space with alcohol. It was represented in the hearing by a code officer, the city’s director of community development and a city attorney. Sumra, Catalina Partners, attorney Jamieson and a representative of 7-Eleven were also present.
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