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[whitespace] Fear of drunken drivers unrealistic, Council says

Los Gatos--Adequately convinced that drivers won't swig themselves silly from bottles of premium wine, the Town Council overturned the Planning Commission decision to deny Classic Car Wash's request to sell fine wines.

By a 3-2 vote, council members Linda Lubeck, Steve Blanton and Randy Attaway granted car-wash owner Frank Dorsa's appeal. The council decided that the car wash was neither a convenience store nor a service station, and, therefore, was not subject to the town ban on gas stations selling alcohol.

"What we have in front of us is a car wash," Lubeck said. "Yes, it sells gas, but it's not a gas station."

Dorsa and his wife, Marilyn, intend to sell high-end, unopened wine for off-site consumption to car-wash customers waiting for their cars. Wine is available at the Dorsas' other car washes in Campbell and San Jose, and they presented letters from the two cities' police departments, stating that there had been no alcohol-related problems.

The Los Gatos-Monte Sereno Police Department had asked the Planning Commission to deny the application, because of concerns related to drunken driving.

But, Dorsa and wine salesman, Bert George, said the police department's fears were misplaced. "We're bringing restaurant-quality wines to town," George said. "[Customers] are going to bring those wines home, or to one of your restaurants."

The Dorsas agreed to a number of restrictions to prevent drivers from buying wine and drinking it on the way home. The wine sales will be confined to a small area of the existing gift shop, only high-end wines will be sold, and no corkscrews, or opening devices, will be available.

"They discussed it for quite a long time. I think they really soul-searched, and came up with the right answer," Dorsa later said. "We just wanted to offer to the customers of Los Gatos what we do for the customers in San Jose and Campbell."

Councilmen Joe Pirzynski and Jan Hutchins opposed the appeal. Pirzynski said he believed the council would be violating the town's laws. "Given the way we have defined our community's needs within our town codes," he said, "it is inappropriate to approve this." Hutchins added that, while he had faith Dorsa would be responsible with wine sales, subsequent owners could not necessarily be trusted.

Mayor Blanton disagreed, saying that the ordinance came with a good deal of interpretive power. "[The car wash] is clearly a horse of a different color," Blanton said. "I don't have any concerns at all that we're going to have ill effects from the sale of wine."
Nathan R. Huff

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