More Alcohol Sales Approved

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

December 4, 2023

Two new liquor licenses were recently approved by the Morro Bay City Council.

The Morro Bay City Council is 2-for-2 when asked to approve new liquor licenses in town.

The Council recently approved support for a license to sell beer and wine at the recently completed Hampton Inn, located at 295 Atascadero Rd., next to Morro Bay High School.

The Type 20 license from the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), allows the hotel to sell alcohol for off site consumption, just like a grocery store or a mini-mart.

According to the ABC website, Type 20 licenses are  “Issued to retail stores. Authorizes the sale of beer and wine for consumption off the premises where sold. Minors are allowed on the premises.”

Minors, those under 21, are of course entirely prohibited from purchasing, possessing or consuming alcoholic beverages. 

So why would minors be allowed in the store? Being a hotel, children might be expected to accompany an adult or maybe a parent down to the store in the Inn’s lobby, just as they might go into a mini-mart with their mom or dad.

The license means the Inn’s employees will have to check IDs just like a liquor store clerk must do and could be subject to underage sting operations by ABC, the County Sheriff or local police.

The approval is the Council’s second since ordering such licenses to come to them instead of being approved or denied “over-the-counter” at the planning department. 

The other license that was approved is for another convenience store under construction now on The Embarcadero. That store too will be connected to a small motel at the Harborwalk Plaza development.

The Inn’s license request goes back a few months. “In July 2023, Escape Hospitality LLC [Hampton Inn], the property owner of the property,” reads the staff report from Community Development Director Scot Graham, “requested a letter of support from the City of Morro Bay for approval from California Alcohol and Beverage Control to allow alcohol sales” at the Hampton Inn. “The intent of the Hampton Inn,” Graham continued, “is to make available the sale of beer and wine to hotel guests within the gift store in the hotel.”

Such matters are routine, so long as ABC has not determined that there are too many such licenses in one area, which apparently ABC has done. That means a city (or county) needs to send in a letter of recommendation. 

“ABC,” Graham said, “has identified this area of the City as having an over concentration of alcohol sales licenses triggering a requirement for the applicant to obtain a letter of support from the City in favor of a ‘Determination of Public Convenience and Necessity’ for issuance of the ABC license in this location.”

In the immediate area of Hampton Inn are several mini-mart style stores — a USA Gas Station (formerly a Chevron Station), Circle Z, Cork & Bottle Liquor — that all sell beer and wine to go.

Indeed, the town has an abundance of places that either sell, serve or make alcoholic beverages, with nearly 50 bars and restaurants and all but the fast food places have at least beer and wine. 

On the Embarcadero there are six full liquor bars/restaurants; plus there are two grocery stores and a chain drug store in town that sell hooch by the gallon. There are five gas station/mini-marts; four straight up liquor stores; five wine tasting rooms; and two brewpubs. 

All told, that’s a lot of alcohol outlets for a town of just over 10,000 souls. The police department had no objections to adding another.

“The hotel use serves visitors to Morro Bay,” Graham said, “and the request to allow the sale of beer and wine at the hotel is a reasonable ancillary use to the hotel. 

“Both the Police and Community Development Departments have reviewed the request and found no reason to deny the sale of alcohol at this location.”

Graham had already notified the Inn’s owners, Hemant and Jalpa Patel Hampton Inn (dba Escape Hospitality, LLC) that he saw no reason to deny them a letter but it had to have the council’s blessings.

“I reviewed the documents,” Graham’s letter reads, “and I support the application of alcohol sales and license type for the above location. The Community Development Department has no concerns or issues to express.”

He added that the city council authorized the letter of recommendation be sent.

The Patel Family built the 83-room Hampton Inn and also owns several other motels in town.

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