Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
Two 7-Eleven stores have agreed to stop selling bottles of alcohol in the “mini” and pint sizes, in response to neighborhood complaints and the city’s muscle in using its nuisance abatement authority.
Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said Monday that the two convenience stores – at Kathryn and San Mateo SE, and at Solano and East Central – generated a combined 1,127 complaints to the city’s 311 citizen help line from January 2018 to April 2019.
Those calls resulted in Albuquerque police officers responding 733 times and Albuquerque Fire Rescue responding 189 times, mostly for people who were “down and out.”
In an agreement with the city, the two stores “will police and clean up their areas” daily, and will have employees undergo additional training so that they can avoid selling alcohol to already inebriated individuals, Keller said.
The mayor also said the city is not targeting any particular group of people who frequent these stores; rather, the effort is to target a particular type of drinking.
“The majority of challenges in these locations, is people buying these sizes for almost immediate consumption – consumption right outside or in the immediate neighborhood.”
The measure is something of “an experiment,” Keller said, to determine if limiting alcohol sales in mini and pint sizes will result in fewer complaints from the surrounding neighbors and a better partnership between the neighborhoods and the stores.
Gary Eyster, president of the Nob Hill Neighborhood Association, said the store at Solano NE has been a problem for 25 years. “People know if they can put together a couple of bucks they can go buy a mini, even though they may already be intoxicated, and then they’ll walk a half-block or a block away and sit down and consume it and spend the rest of the day under some bushes or in a driveway or in someone’s yard.”
Parkland Hills resident Melinda Frame said that in the 10 years she’s lived there she and her neighbors regularly encounter people passed out amid empty alcohol bottles, food wrappers and other trash.
“In my own yard, we have found bottles, needles and a semiautomatic rifle in our bushes.”
District 6 City Councilor and council President Pat Davis, in whose district the two stores are located, led the effort in the City Council to respond to complaints from residents in the South San Pedro, Parkland Hills and Nob Hill neighborhoods.
“For years, we’ve been using the city’s nuisance authority to go after abandoned properties,” he said. “But for the city to go after an existing business was extraordinary. That’s why we took this process through the City Council for public hearings, because our neighbors, quite frankly, were saying, ‘We’re getting organized to build a better neighborhood; we want to be better neighbors; and we expect our businesses in our communities to do the same.’ ”
Keller called the agreement “a great example of the One Albuquerque spirit and cooperation between city government and the private sector.” Davis said the two stores, under new ownership and new management, “came forward and said, ‘We’re willing to do what’s right’ ” in the interest of being a good neighbor.
However, it may not have been quite so voluntary on the part of the stores.
Davis noted that the agreement keeps the stores’ owners from “having to go to court, which could have forced them to close, put people out of business and left an abandoned property.”
Further, the resolution “isn’t just a handshake,” Keller said. “The accountability is through our legal team and our inspectors who will check on it and work with them to hold them accountable. We have a signed legal settlement.”
The two 7-Eleven properties are owned by Southwest Convenience Stores LLC. No one from the company attended the outdoor news conference held along San Mateo just north of the Kathryn SE location. However, company representative Mark Rhodes said in a news release that the company “cares about the communities in which we operate” and looks forward to working closely with the city.
“Together we will improve the experience for our customers, employees and neighbors.”