As was first reported by Texpatriate last month, there was a pending proposal before the City Council to combat food deserts (areas, predominantly within poor neighborhoods, that lack a meaningful number of healthy grocery stores) by loosening restrictions of who could sell alcohol where in the neighborhoods. While these two issues may appear unrelated, the logic behind the push is actually quite sound. Simply put, current alcohol ordinances in the City prohibit stores from selling alcohol within 1000 feet of a school or church. In many lower income neighborhoods, churches often have a ubiquitous presence in strip centers alongside other stores. Accordingly, Mayor Parker and others on the City Council argued that these restrictions should be loosened to 300 feet in order to attract new grocery stores to the area.
This morning, the City Council approved the relaxed regulations. They only apply to stores with at least 10,000 square feet of retail space, forbids establishments that allow onsite consumption (sorry, Whole Foods!) and excludes any stores that obtain over a quarter of their profits from the alcoholic sales. The move was largely the brainchild of Councilmember Stephen Costello, who has dedicated a fair amount of time recently to combating the negative effects of food deserts. The regulations were put in place to make sure only actual large Grocery Stores could take advantage of the new rules, and not stop-and-go convenience stores or otherwise any sort of bar.