`Ban the Ban’ got funds from alcohol sellers

August 12, 2001 No Comments

Angela Lau. The San Diego Union – Tribune. San Diego, Calif.: Aug 2, 2001. pg. B.1.1.7

The campaign against a round-the-clock trial ban on drinking alcohol at two San Diego beaches was funded largely by alcohol- related businesses, financial documents show.

In a disclosure statement filed with the city clerk Tuesday, the anti-ban campaign revealed that two-thirds of the $58,876 raised in cash and loans in May and June came from three beer and wine distributors as well as retail businesses that sell alcohol.

“This confirms what we’ve suspected all along,” said Peter Bryan, spokesman for Councilman Byron Wear, author of the contentious trial ban that was passed by the City Council in April.

The ordinance would have prohibited alcohol on parts of Mission Beach and Pacific Beach 24 hours a day from June 1 to the end of 2002.

“There were some people who were behind the ban for selfish reasons — the liquor stores who are peddling the stuff,” Bryan said.

During the opposition campaign, beer and wine distributors in San Diego gave $13,000, about 22 percent, of the total.

Among the distributors, Mesa Distributing Co. Inc., which handles Miller, and Crest Beverage Co., which handles Coors, Heineken and Corona, each gave $5,000, two of the three largest amounts donated.

The Beach Market in Mission Beach, which sells beer and wine, also gave $5,000.

An Orange-based wine and spirits distributor, Young’s Market, which has an office in San Diego, contributed $3,000.

Liquor stores, markets that sell beer and wine, bars and convenience stores mostly serving the beach areas donated and lent additional $26,200.

The bulk of the contributions — $56,000 — was spent gathering names for the petition campaign that forced the City Council to reconsider the trial ban. The expenditure included paying petition circulators, said Marc Schaefer, field director for The La Jolla Group, a political consulting agency that organized the petition drive.

The group collected 52,000 names, and the City Council voted on July 23 to put the trial ban to a referendum scheduled for March 5, 2002.

Throughout the petition drive, ban supporters have claimed petition organizers, who formed under the name San Diego Community Task Force-Ban the Ban II, “bought” their signatures by paying petition circulators 75 cents or more to collect each name.

Schaefer said he does not have detailed information about how much petition circulators, who are independent contractors, were paid. He said a lot of volunteers also helped collect signatures.

Besides alcohol-related businesses, individuals, motels, restaurants and corporations that do not sell alcohol also gave money to the campaign, accounting for one-third of the total. Most donors listed addresses in San Diego, but a handful came from other parts of the county. One lives in Las Vegas.

Their contributions ranged from $2 to $3,000, with CITCO, of Riverside, giving $3,000. CITCO president Louay Abraham said the company, which sells goods such as air fresheners and chopsticks, owns a house in Ocean Beach for employee use.

“We want to be able to enjoy a drink at the beach,” he said.

The Ocean Beach Tire Center lent $2,000 at no interest to the campaign. Tire Center owner Hadeer Zaya said he and his employees like to have a beer on the beach to relax.

There is no limit to the amount donors can contribute, according to the city clerk.

Schaefer said most of the contributions came from people who “gave what they could afford because they can’t agree with the law.”

“They believed in the cause,” Schaefer said.

Don Mullen, a Ban the Ban II member, said he is not embarrassed by the domination of alcohol-related financial sources. He said much of the money came from small, independent shop owners “who are being economically hurt by the ban.”

He also compared contributions by beer and wine businesses to those made in 1990, when a similar campaign forced the repeal of an ordinance that banned alcohol at city beaches and parks. In that campaign, financial support from the beer industry and businesses amounted to 92 percent of the $28,170 raised, according to press reports at the time.

The trial ban on alcohol consumption was initiated by Wear after some of his constituents in Mission Beach complained about alcohol- related crime, such as DUI and minors in possession of alcohol. According to police statistics, Mission Beach topped the city’s neighborhoods with 10,374 such crimes from 1998 to 2000, while Pacific Beach followed with 7,019.

In La Jolla, where a 24-hour-a-day ban has been in place since 1991, 978 such crimes were reported in the same three-year period.

The anti-ban campaign is required by law to file more financial reports, city elections officer Joyce Lane said. Its first deadline was July 31 and its next quarterly disclosure is due Oct. 31.
[Illustration]
1 GRAPH; Caption: Booze ban contributions — Quarterly financial statement for Ban the Ban II campaign (B-3:7; B-1:1; B-5:2; B-2:6); Credit: UNION-TRIBUNE

Credit: STAFF WRITER

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