Location restrictions could be ahead for Berkeley drug stores

Photo: Drug stores, like this Walgreens on Allston Way and Shattuck Avenue, could be restricted in the placement of new sites if a City Council recommendation passes. New stores would be required to be 1,000 feet away from existing locations.
Christopher McDermut/Senior Staff
Drug stores, like this Walgreens on Allston Way and Shattuck Avenue, could be restricted in the placement of new sites if a City Council recommendation passes. New stores would be required to be 1,000 feet away from existing locations.

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In response to a string of competing drug stores in Berkeley - and rumors of even more locations opening - Mayor Tom Bates, along with Councilmembers Laurie Capitelli and Susan Wengraf, have authored a recommendation that would require the location of new or expanded drug stores to be a minimum of 1,000 feet away from existing stores.

The recommendation - to be voted on by the Berkeley City Council at its meeting April 26 - cites an overabundance of drug stores in the city that currently operate within close proximity, advocating for more diversity in the city's retail stores.

Wengraf said one of their main reasons for authoring the bill was the ongoing battle between Walgreens and CVS/pharmacy for locations in Berkeley, in addition to rumors of the two companies looking to open more stores in the city. According to Dave Fogarty, the city's economic development project coordinator, there are currently five Walgreens - with a sixth to open on North Shattuck Avenue - and three CVS stores in the city.

"I have concern about the proliferation of that particular type of store in a concentrated area, because it seems like we have an awful lot of Walgreens and CVSs," Wengraf said. "Walgreens and CVS seem to be in a turf battle."

Julie Sinai, chief of staff for Bates, said in every area of the city, there is a Walgreens, CVS or both.

"What (Bates) would like to see is more diversity," Sinai said, adding that she would like to see other establishments, such as clothing or hardware stores, open in the city's few large lots available. "His sense is that there is no shortage of drug stores ... There's not a lot of large store square footage, and it limits the diversity in our commercial areas."

Although the recommendation does cite alcohol sales as being an important aspect of drug stores, both Wengraf and Sinai said this was not a main factor in the decision to author the recommendation.

"(Drug stores) don't get to sell alcohol by right, they have to go through another level in order to get permission to sell alcohol," Wengraf said. "That is not my concern. If there are kids in town who want to find alcohol, they'll find it ... We just don't want lots of places in the Downtown selling bottles of alcohol."

Fogarty said he believed the popularity of drug stores in Berkeley is due to a lack of property available for large-scale general merchandise stores.

According to Fogarty, the 2007 census of Retail Trade stated that while pharmacy sales account for 4.88 percent of retail in all of California, in Berkeley they account for 9.57 percent.

"I don't think it has anything to do with demand for over-the-counter drugs because Berkeley in that respect is normal," Fogarty said. "It has to do with the fact that Berkeley does not have general merchandise stores like Target, Kmart or Walmart that sell a full range of general goods, so instead in Berkeley people go to drug stores."

Despite rumors that CVS is looking to open additional location in the city, Mike DeAngelis, public relations director for CVS, said in an email that CVS does not currently have plans to open another Berkeley location.

"We are always looking for opportunities to open new stores at locations that will provide consumers with convenient access to our retail pharmacy services," he said in an email.

If the council approves the recommendation it will go to the city's Planning Commission, though it could take four to six months before the recommendation is implemented, according to Wengraf.


Contact Jessica at [email protected]

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