77816539 Rally Targets Self Checkout Alcohol Sales At Fresh & Easy Stores

Tesco PLC, the UK’s biggest retailer, opened its first six stores in southern California in 2007, making heavy use of pre-packaged produce, in contrast to U.S.-based grocery chains, to reduce overhead and refrigeration costs. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A coalition of Southland community groups on Wednesday urged grocery chain Fresh & Easy to crack down on sales of alcohol to minors through the chain’s self-checkout machines.

The rally at a Fresh & Easy store in Manhattan Beach included State Senator Ted Lieu, Assemblywoman Betsy Butler, and members of Alcohol Justice and Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE) affiliates, who said they have gathered over 6,000 signatures of local residents calling on the chain to conform to state law.

Assembly Bill 183 (PDF) — which Governor Jerry Brown signed into law on Jan. 1 — mandates that all alcohol sales must be serviced by a cashier to prevent sales to underage customers.

Fresh & Easy — which opponents say has been cited multiple times, including a citation at the Manhattan Beach store after the ban went into effect — has opposed AB183 and joined with the California Grocers Association to file a lawsuit to postpone enforcement of the law.

Rabbi Jonathon Klein of CLUE-LA told KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO Fresh & Easy simply refuses to comply with the law.

“It seems like they will do anything they can to prevent following such laws,” said Klein. “They really have kind of been sticking it to the community is the way I see it, to be honest, because it’s a real matter of safety and health of our children who are able to get alcohol and not have the wherewithal to not abuse that access,” said Klein.

But Fresh & Easy spokesman Brendan Wonnacott said the company — which is non-union — strenuously denies the allegations and contends that politics are ultimately behind the charges.

“This is just part of a long-running operation by organized labor and their allies to disrupt our operations,” said Wonnacott. “Our policy requiring face-to-face interaction with every customer who purchases alcohol is not any different than the process at a traditional checkout.”

Self-checkout machines statewide are designed to signal a store employee whenever beer, wine or liquor is scanned for purchase by a shopper.

The chain now has 120 stores across Southern California.


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