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Liquor ban splits Mission District

Discussions are still fiery and fierce in the Mission where disputes over a 1996 liquor moratorium are dividing the community.

During a public meeting Wednesday, Supervisor David Campos told neighborhood members that it was possible to “find a middle ground” in settling the heated debate.  However, a resolution has still not been reached and no follow-up meeting has been scheduled.

The 16-year-old moratorium restricts businesses from transferring their liquor licenses into or within the Mission. Restaurants whose sales are at least 50 percent from food are exempt from the moratorium, as are locations larger than 5,000 square feet. Smaller business — or businesses looking to expand — fall under the ban.

The goal of the ban has been to reduce public intoxication in the neighborhood. Anyone who has done a bar crawl down Valencia knows many a tipsy patron wanders the neighborhood after one-too-many house margaritas at the Latin American Club.

While residents want public drunkenness kept to a minimum, neighborhood businesses argue they can’t compete if they aren’t able to supply and sell booze.

Despite the ban, new liquor-selling establishments have still popped up. A study by the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control reveals that, since the ban went into effect in 1996, 156 restaurants have been licensed to sell wine and beer, and 39 restaurants have obtained a full liquor license.

Most of these restaurants are pricey, higher-end outfits, leading to contentious arguments about gentrification in the always-evolving and delicately-balanced Mission.

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