Coalitions in Action: NCPC Unites Community to Reverse Alcohol Sales Decision

 

In San Diego County, California, the North Coastal Prevention Coalition (NCPC) and San Dieguito Alliance for Drug Free Youth (SDA) joined forces to take on the local Planning Commission’s intention to allow the sale of alcohol at the K1 Speed go-cart racing track.

To keep up-to-date on local issues, SDA and NCPC monitor the agendas of local public meetings. On May 1, 2017, the coalitions noted the Carlsbad Planning Commission’s agenda item: amending the conditional use permit for K1 Speed go-cart racing to allow the sale of beer and wine.

There was little time to organize public input for the meeting scheduled just days later, but the coalitions attended to learn more about the proposal. K1 Speed opened in Carlsbad in 2003, and has since grown to over 35 locations nationwide. Adding alcohol to their business model is a new venture and only two Chicago locations have full alcohol service. None of their 14 California locations are licensed to sell alcohol. After deliberation, the Planning Commission approved allowing beer and wine at K1 Speed on a 5 – 2 vote.

“We were concerned with this decision, especially since the Planning Commissioners were provided no information about alcohol impacts, DUIs, crime rates, etc. to inform their decision. In fact, the police department had not been informed of this proposal,” said Erica Leary, Program Manager at North Coastal Prevention Coalition. “SDA and NCPC attended the Council meeting the following week and encouraged the City Council to bring this issue forward to ensure more public discussion before making Carlsbad the first go-cart racing facility in California to provide alcohol.”

The only option was to file an appeal of the decision – at the cost of $850. SDA and NCPC pooled their non-government, donated funds to file an appeal along with the contribution of a local family, whose grandson was a regular customer and leading scorer in the nation. The intent of the appeal was not specifically to oppose the Planning Commission’s decision, but rather to have more time to inform the public, gather public opinion, retrieve local alcohol-related data, and ensure the Council had the opportunity to discuss the item at length.

NCPC created an online and paper survey and gathered input from 400 people. The majority (65 percent) were opposed to allowing alcohol at K1 Speed. Community voices joined the coalitions’ to speak to City Council and the media. Together, the message was spread via social media and one person authored an opinion-editorial in the local weekly paper. Larger organizations, such as San Diego County’s Alcohol Policy Panel, and Alcohol Justice in California, submitted letters to the Council explaining the impact of increased alcohol availability, and the mixed message combining alcohol and racing sends. NCPC sent a media advisory prior to the council meeting, and five local TV stations covered the story. SDA, NCPC and the Carlsbad local family presented their case for the appeal, along with approximately a dozen speakers, who expressed their concerns.

The City Council voted 4 – 1 to amend the Planning Commission decision to prohibit alcohol sales.

“Keeping up to speed on local alcohol licensing processes can be a confusing and complicated process,” said Leary. “It’s important to monitor local meeting agendas, and keep asking questions and stay involved. Alcohol availability is increasing to more and more venues (movie theaters, fast food, farmer’s markets, etc.), which may be contributing to increases in binge drinking rates.”