Alcohol Justice Says Underage Liquor Sales at Fresh & Easy Tied to Store's Refusal to Comply with California Ban on Sale of Alcohol Through Self-checkout Machines
EL SEGUNDO, Calif., Sept. 19, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Last year, a diverse coalition of lawmakers, law enforcement, clergy, and community groups came together to pass a new law (AB 183), designed to prevent underage drinking in California. Today, members of this coalition gathered again to confront a grocery store that has been cited for selling alcohol to minors while refusing to comply with the new law. Lawmakers, clergy, and members of the community gathered this morning in front of the Fresh & Easy store in Manhattan Beach to call on the company to do its part to prevent underage drinking.
Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets have received multiple citations for selling alcohol to minors through their self-checkout machines. Since January, the sale of alcohol through self-checkout machines has been banned in California. Activists argue that Fresh & Easy's latest citation would have been prevented if the company had obeyed the new law.
In January, California became the first state in the nation to regulate the sale of alcohol through self-checkout machines. Studies by UCLA and San Diego State have shown that it is substantially easier for minors and inebriated persons to illegally purchase alcohol through these self-checkout machines than through a traditionally staffed register. In a UCLA study, minors were able to purchase alcohol through the self-checkout register in one out of every five attempts.
AB 183 was a common sense solution that ensured all alcohol sales involved a face-to-face interaction with a clerk by banning the sale of alcohol through self-checkout registers. The ban was broadly supported by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, law enforcement groups, clergy, and community organizations.
Although the ban has been in effect since January, Fresh & Easy continues to conduct all alcohol sales through self-checkout machines. The company's lobby group, the California Grocers Association filed a lawsuit against the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control that has postponed the law's enforcement.
Assemblywoman Betsy Butler, a sponsor of the original legislation, said of the lawsuit, "Last year, we came together to ensure that unregulated self-checkout machines are no longer a danger to the community, by passing AB 183. It is time for Fresh & Easy to do its part. Hiding behind the CGA lawsuit shows contempt for our laws and for the safety of the community."
Assemblywoman Butler joined activists from Alcohol Justice and Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE) at the Fresh & Easy store in Manhattan Beach this morning to present the company with a petition signed by over 6,000 of the store's neighbors. The petition called on Fresh & Easy to obey the new law and do its part to keep alcohol out of the hands of teens.
"Fresh & Easy is not an entity that concerns itself with community safety, but instead feels they are above the law," stated former child actor and current board member of Alcohol Justice, John Whitaker, Jr. who is himself a person in recovery who understands the danger of early alcohol abuse. "Young people, and others who shouldn't, purchase alcohol at Fresh & Easy, and do so with impunity. Today we are raising awareness of Fresh & Easy's choice to not be a law-abiding corporation."
Over 200 members of the clergy signed on to the petition calling on Fresh & Easy to obey the law and do its part to prevent underage drinking. "Protecting our children from the dangers of underage drinking is the responsibility of the entire community - including the grocery stores who hold the privilege of selling alcohol. By abdicating this moral responsibility, Fresh & Easy is putting profits ahead of people," said Rabbi Jonathon Klein.
Other religious leaders at today's event included Rev. John Miller, Rev. Gloria Castillo from Mission Presbyteriana, Rev. Arnold Townsend, the Vice President of the San Francisco NAACP, Archbishop Franzo King of the African Orthodox Church, Bishop Aurea Lewis of the California Council of Churches, Bishop Beverly J. Shaman of the United Methodist Church, Bishop Dean Nelson of Southwest California Synod, Director Mark Carlson of the Lutheran Office of Public Policy, Rev. Walter Contreras of LA RED and the Hispanic Ministries for the Evangelical Covenant Church.
CONTACT: John Whittaker (213) 400-6542
Rabbi Jonathan Klein (310) 770-5555
SOURCE Alcohol Justice