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Some say Cherokee Lane's plethora of liquor stores a problem for area

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Posted: Friday, December 7, 2007 10:00 pm

Nearly every morning, Chip Herman hoses off pools of urine and human feces from the side of his auto detailing shop on South Cherokee Lane.

No matter how hard he tries, however, the longtime Lodi businessman can't rinse away the root cause of his frustrations: the widespread access to alcohol on the Eastside corridor.

There are roughly 30 places you can buy a drink on Cherokee Lane, from the restaurants and bars to the liquor, grocery and convenience stores.

While Downtown has a few more restaurants and bars, Cherokee Lane leads the city with the highest concentration of corner stores and mini-marts that sell alcohol. There are 14 of them on the corridor, nine from 380 to 900 S. Cherokee Lane.

With that many outlets, Herman says, the commercial district has become a magnet for vandals, drunks and the homeless.

Cleaning it up means taking away the booze first, he said, standing behind his shop, where bottle caps, broken glass and wadded up brown paper bags are strewn on the ground.

"If you take the alcohol away, they wouldn't be hanging around here," said Herman, a slender and chatty man with a neatly trimmed brown goatee.

"You've got nice families walking down this alley and they shouldn't have to see this graffiti … and the guys pissing and defecating back here," he added.

While the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control administers alcohol licenses, the Lodi Planning Commission has the final call on whether an applicant should be approved.

The commission has begun taking a closer look at the applicants, noted Lodi Senior Planner David Morimoto. He could not recall, however, any recent applicants that have been turned down.

And while the city has the final call on applicants, it does not keep a master list of all the alcohol licenses in the city. The state does that.

A Budweiser truck pulls into the Cherokee Mini-Mart on Cherokee Lane. (Brian Feulner/News-Sentinel)

City leaders, including new Mayor JoAnne Mounce, and those who work or live near Cherokee Lane do want changes. They want closer scrutiny of liquor license applications, and a spruced up avenue that serves as a gateway to the city.

The corridor, now a busy but hardly picturesque collection of motels, gas stations and retail shops, is the first place many see when entering Lodi.

"People get a bad impression - they think the whole town is like that," said Sunil Yadav, owner of the Modern Motor Lodge on South Cherokee, and a member of the Lodi Improvement Committee.

"(The city) did a lot of work, but we need a lot more," he said, referring to the streetlights, road paving and medians added to Cherokee Lane a decade ago.

Yadav said he doesn't think alcohol is at the core of Cherokee Lane's image problem.

Some, on the other hand, feel the alcohol outlets draw in the drunks and the homeless, and keep them there.

Of course, there's alcohol is all parts of the city. Bar fights in the Downtown and drunken driving arrests on Kettleman Lane show its affects aren't limited to one place.

Not as bad as people think

Not everyone shares Chip Herman's image of Cherokee Lane; many, in fact, sing its praises.

Sunil Yadav, owner of the Modern Motor Lodge on South Cherokee Lane, talks about the transient population around the area. (Brian Feulner/News-Sentinel)

"Cherokee Lane isn't as bad as people think it is," said Ernie Hoffman, one of about a dozen retired men who gather at J&D Donuts on South Cherokee each morning for coffee and small talk.

"There are a lot of nice businesses here," added Hoffman, who lives on the west side of the city, but has no problem spending his mornings among friends on Cherokee.

Interspersed among the avenue's liquor shops are a wide array of family friendly places. From the Mexican restaurants to the coffee and ice cream shops, the corridor is full of life.

Young families push their babies in strollers up the street. Drivers rush north and south, stopping to get their cars washed or pick up milk and potatoes on their way home.

If you include the bars and restaurants, Downtown and Kettleman Lane have roughly the same number of places to buy alcohol as Cherokee Lane.

But glancing at a map of the city's alcohol establishments, no other stretch has the same concentration of off-sale alcohol licenses: typically found at mini-marts, liquor stores, and increasingly, gas station convenience stores.

"It used to be a gas station was a gas station," said Lodi Senior Planner David Morimoto, noting that most now sell alcohol as well.

The reason Cherokee Lane has so many liquor shops and corner stores, Morimoto said, is fairly simple: the city grew up around that corridor, and people didn't have the massive new shopping centers they do today.

Applicants for an alcohol license in California must submit to extensive background checks by the state. Their fingerprints are processed to examine their criminal history, and their bank accounts are also checked to ensure they have a solid financial background. The state also looks at the history of any prior alcohol licenses they may have obtained.

The background checks are done on those seeking new licenses and those who obtain existing licenses when a store or restaurant changes ownership.

Residents within 500 feet of a business applying for a license are notified by mail. Parks, churches, schools and hospitals within 600 feet are also notified.

Cities, however, and not the state, have the final call on whether to approve an alcohol license application.

In Lodi, the planning commission gives the final OK.

Source: Paul Fuentes, supervising investigator for Stockton office of the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

"That's a good street, but too much alcohol … Lodi is a small city and they have too many liquor stores. Maybe if they see (intoxicated people), stop selling."
- Lizette Martinez, manager at La Taquiza Mexican restaurant on Cherokee Lane

"It might need a little cleaning up … (but) I feel pretty safe here."
- Gus Franlich, who gathers at J&D Donuts on Cherokee Lane each morning, and has lived on the Eastside since 1947

"If you don't want to drink it, if you don't want to smoke it, nobody's forcing you … It's not liquor stores' fault. (Store owners) want to provide for their families."
- Baljit Kang, manager at Cherokee Mini-Mart on Cherokee Lane

"There's a lot of steps that (liquor license applicants) have to get through."
- Paul Fuentes, supervising investigator for Stockton office of the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, referring to background checks applicants must submit to

"I can't blame a liquor store, because someone is buying it."
- Sunil Yadav, owner of the Modern Motor Lodge on Cherokee Lane, and a member of the Lodi Improvement Committee

"I've lived on both parts of town, and I definitely see a difference (in the effects of liquor stores on the Eastside)."
- Angelica Perales, a stay-at-home mom who lives near Cherokee Lane

"People tended to shop more locally," said the planner, who's spent more than 25 years working for the city. "It was before the big chains came in. You didn't drive across town to shop."

"It's not a planned conspiracy," added Lodi City Councilman Larry Hansen. "It's just the way things have evolved."

A new face for Cherokee Lane

A decade from now, city leaders envision a transformed Cherokee Lane.

New, big-name hotels will flank the avenue, next to modern medical and professional offices.

Existing shops will have dressed up storefronts and attractive landscaping. A large "Welcome to Lodi" sign will greet travelers, merging onto Cherokee Lane from Highway 99.

The liquor shops might still be there. But perhaps some of the blight associated with them will be gone, leaders say.

"The city recognizes that we need a revitalization of that area," said Hansen, the city's former police chief, seated at a Downtown coffee shop.

Cherokee Lane sits in the heart of the city's proposed redevelopment district. Such a district would allow the city to pump more property tax revenue back into the neighborhood, both along the avenue and the surrounding residential areas.

Upcoming plans would also allow for taller hotels and offices on the strip. (The city limit would jump from two stories to four). City leaders also want to include Cherokee Lane in the county's Enterprise Zone, which would make businesses eligible for numerous low-cost loans and tax rebates.

Until the plans become a reality, however, it's the job of people like Dale Eubanks to control the avenue.

Doling out citations for drinking alcohol on the street or panhandling is a daily task for Eubanks, a longtime Lodi police officer who patrols Cherokee Lane.

"Quite honestly, I think we have enough liquor stores," Eubanks said.

Lodi Police Chief Jerry Adams noted the department does look at each license application. And while a concentration of any type of store isn't good, Adams said it's the city planners who must decide what the landscape of avenues like Cherokee look like.

"I think that's what the planning laws are all about," he said.

Eubanks noted that Cherokee's liquor stores, plus the avenue's recycling centers and some of its motels, attract beggars and drunks, and keep them coming back. That's not to mention the drug addicts and prostitutes that frequent some of Cherokee's motels.

Officers have conducted prostitution stings on the avenue. They arrest those who are drunk in public, and bring them to jail. They've even got a portfolio with pictures of the city's more than 100 "regular drunks," Eubanks said.

But while the blight and alcohol-related crimes have increased on Cherokee, law enforcement hasn't.

The department's staff size has remained roughly the same since the late 1980s, Eubanks noted.

Despite it's unsavory elements, Cherokee isn't an epicenter of violent crime in Lodi. In fact, you're no more likely to get mugged on the avenue than anywhere else in the city, according to Eubanks.

Most liquor and convenience store owners refrain from selling to visibly drunk customers, he added.

Baljit Kang, manager at Cherokee Mini-Mart, said a regular group of panhandlers collect money on the corner, and then buy alcohol at her store.

She doesn't refuse them service, as long as they're sober, she said.

"If they're drunk here, I don't sell to them," she added.

Despite police and store manager's efforts, Cherokee's image problem persists.

A clean and safe place to live is important for Angelica Perales, a young mother who lives near Cherokee Lane.

Having a bevy of alcohol outlets isn't the landscape she wants to see.

"I think it affects this part of town," said Perales, 20, stopping with her two-year-old daughter, Jade, to talk near Rancho San Miguel grocery store on Cherokee Lane. "I don't know if it's the liquor stores but people come over to this side of town to drink and they stay here."

For some, finding a good deal can trump concerns about a shopping district's image.

Loading a sack of sweet potatoes into her car at the Rancho San Miguel parking lot, Betty Geiszler said she hadn't given much thought to Cherokee Lane's appearance, before driving across town.

"I shop where the sales are," she added.

Contact reporter Chris Nichols at chrisn@lodinews.com.

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Welcome to the discussion.


  • posted at 6:34 pm on Fri, Dec 14, 2007.


    Mr. Yadav and the other small business owners knew what their customer base was when they purchased the business. If they didn't, don't blame anybody else for your lack of due diligence. Cherokee Lane has been the same for a long time. Stop accepting the customers money if you don't like who they are or what they do and stop complaining.

  • posted at 9:52 am on Thu, Dec 13, 2007.


    Wake up? What do I need to wake up?

  • posted at 5:25 pm on Wed, Dec 12, 2007.


    Snob, i'm a white trash punk from lockeford that works hard to provide for mine. Wake up

  • posted at 4:12 am on Wed, Dec 12, 2007.


    To: "to: i am disappointed": You are the worst kind of snob.

  • posted at 9:33 am on Tue, Dec 11, 2007.


    I do have respect, Respect for my family to keep them as safe as possible and the east side is not as safe as the west and the schools are all mexican kids so they dont get a good education. There is good people on the east but there is more bad. I know it happens on both sides but there are more crimes on the east. My Choice

  • posted at 9:39 am on Mon, Dec 10, 2007.


    Yea, whatever Chip...

  • posted at 3:18 pm on Sun, Dec 9, 2007.


    its Bush`s fault !!

  • posted at 1:21 pm on Sun, Dec 9, 2007.


    You want it cleaned up? Make panhandling against the law. They could be arrested, and you could be fined for feeding their habbits. Then they would all move on to where it would still be legal to panhandle. Give your change to the shelters, and programs to help the true homeless where it will do some good.

  • posted at 1:15 pm on Sun, Dec 9, 2007.


    I was born right over there on Walnut St., and grew up there. Bum's rode the rails, and would get off by the old Union Ice House. Then set up in the fields on the other side of Cherokee Lane. All looking for a hand out. When the people stopped giving they moved on. Leaving stacks of cans, bottles of cheap booze and trash. At times the Police would pick them up to take them out of town. Problem solved. At least for Lodi.

  • posted at 1:08 pm on Sun, Dec 9, 2007.


    It's not the stores fault. It's all the bum's fault that moved into the area. Don't even call them homeless. They are persons working to get back on their feet. These are bums your giving your change to so they can feed their habbit. Every time you give change means the longer they will stay. If you want to help the homeless there are many programs you can give to.

  • posted at 9:55 am on Sun, Dec 9, 2007.


    To: "to i am disappointed": Have some respect. There are a lot of good people, living on the eastside of town, doing the best they can to make ends meet.

  • posted at 8:25 am on Sun, Dec 9, 2007.


    Because we work two jobs to live on the west so our kids have a better life makes us bad. wow get a clue thats why your over there. Life is yours do what you want with it.

  • posted at 4:23 am on Sun, Dec 9, 2007.


    Wanna keep the homeless out of Lodi? Round up the shopping carts! The stores won't do it, so LPD does. It prevents blight, prevents the homeless from using them, and also prevents them from being traffic hazards. Quit laying on the LPD for rounding them up. BACK THE BADGE!!!

  • posted at 7:42 pm on Sat, Dec 8, 2007.


    Lodi a once great town. People get a bad impression they think the whole town is like that," said Sunil Yadav. Dude the whole town IS like that the east side of it that is. I live over here and gangs drugs and homeless are taking OVER IM NOT PLAYING!!! west lodi is like a totaly diferent place but the problem will only spread HA HA rich people California is doomed. RON PAUL FOR PRES.

  • posted at 6:44 pm on Sat, Dec 8, 2007.


    Dogg, you're sick.

    Stop the Panhandling - I agree with you. There's one homeless guy who camps out at the entrance of the K-Mart Shopping Center all the time. People who stop to turn on Cherokee Ln. give him money. If standing on that curb didn't pay well, he'd move on.

    I'm not against helping the homeless, but enabling panhandlers doesn't help them.

  • posted at 10:28 am on Sat, Dec 8, 2007.


    Have you seen the inside of these disgusting stores with all the illegal pot pipes fake nfl hats gang color cloths you name it. It starts with making the middle eastern store owners clean up there act.

  • posted at 9:24 am on Sat, Dec 8, 2007.


    "Cont... Transients have no rent to pay, no bills, therefore they are free to get high, get drunk, smoke, eat and sleep where they can! While some do get arrested for being "Stupid" and getting caught doing something, they know the jails are over capacity and will be released early if not on "Personal Recognizance"! Drug activity and prostitution thrives on Cherokee in part due to the gangs, and sadly, those in America illegally! If and when ICE agents work hand in hand with LPD, then you will see a TRUE DROP IN CRIME!

  • posted at 9:22 am on Sat, Dec 8, 2007.


    A MAJOR avenue of DISTRIBUTING drugs,from one location and Delivering them to Another location is to for the transients and homeless to use Bicycles!Haven't you ever wondered why so many homeless ride bicycles and carry cel-phones? The "Family plan" is a cheap way to network between supply and demand! Those on biclyces are near impossible to follow! Business is booming...no one can deny it! I don't see a way to slow drug sales down! Neither does LPD! Cont.....

  • posted at 9:10 am on Sat, Dec 8, 2007.


    The issue or cocern here is regarding NEW ALCOHOL BUSINESS LICENSES! The real ISSUE is so many alcohol businesses in a small area CATERING to drug addicts, alcoholics and homeless transients, the panhandling and going to the bathroom in PUBLIC! Sadly, if there were porta potty units here and there, these same people who would be glad they are available would also vandalize them. Someone would have to regularly (Every Day) Keep toilet paper in them! And who would pay the cost?

  • posted at 7:30 am on Sat, Dec 8, 2007.


    just load them all up in the patty wagon and gasem...im sure theyd appreciate it

  • posted at 6:43 am on Sat, Dec 8, 2007.


    To say "Booze Equals Blight" is like saying "Motels along Cherkoee Ln. Equals Transients". Yes, let's blame it on the booze, the motels and we can blame Lodi's out of control students on the teachers by lableling them "white racists". Similarly, calling illegal aliens "undocumented workers" is like calling drug dealers, "unlicensed pharmacists". Whatever happened to accountability and truth. Socialism is where America is heading!

  • posted at 6:10 am on Sat, Dec 8, 2007.


    wake up lpd and city council there is a sprialing effect going on here if you do not see it resing you positions

  • posted at 5:40 am on Sat, Dec 8, 2007.


    I dont care what part of Lodi you live in. Drunks, Illegals, Homeless are all around us. And Lodi police really do not care about enforceing Immigration. Lodi has so many illegals in it, just look all around you the Drunks & Illegals takeing over this town. If i could afford to move out of this town i would. But this is now the way we live, very sad. You can complain about it, But nothing will happen.

  • posted at 4:22 am on Sat, Dec 8, 2007.


    If we don't stop them now, it will end up to be just like Stockton...hookers, drunks, drug addicts everywhere. HA it already is like that all over Lodi. Come on LPD, get rid of the trash instead picking up shopping carts.

  • posted at 3:47 am on Sat, Dec 8, 2007.


    However that said, the millions in redev. money will buy a lot of porta- potties. I hope they have a plan to deal with the animals before they blow a lot of money only to see it go back like it was. You know, all the money to plant tress and such.

  • posted at 3:44 am on Sat, Dec 8, 2007.


    Animals defecate in public. This a public health concern as well as everything else. Why does this town need so many liquor outlets? They seem to be as common as a dog or cat license,you pays your money you gets your license. There are any number of diseases and parasites in human waste. Cherokee Lane has become the old Sac. St. in it's heyday. cont'd

  • posted at 3:19 am on Sat, Dec 8, 2007.


    you notice they said they wouldn't use PUBLICeminent domain, but they won't hesitate to use PRIVATEeminent domain to get rid of those eyesore motels on cherokee. the sad thing is those two car dealerships make the blight in that area not those motels. just how rich do the rich need to be? two names connected with many of these land and housing development deals are nearly involved. do snider and geweke broker all these deals? of course we know who the lapdog is that professes to have a san joaquin land dealership and is the gofer of these deals.

  • posted at 3:13 am on Sat, Dec 8, 2007.


    How do the transients get the money for booze? They pan-handle, raid recyclable cans, and might be engaged in theft. Please note the word "might".

    The transients do also hang out on the west side of town, and there are drug houses on the west side too! LPD knows where they are!!!!!!! They just seem to be unable to catch them red-handed.

    Any suggestions to help them in a positive manner, that being the transients or LPD?

  • posted at 3:10 am on Sat, Dec 8, 2007.


    cherokee lane is and always will be nothing other than a frontage road on the west side of hwy 99. The two car dealerships are now the biggest blight on cherokee and have positioned themselves to make some big bucks from our redevelopment money that was earmarked to clean up the residential areas, not to reward them handsomely for moving. Fixing up the gobs rental investments on the eastside will cost us more than plenty.

  • posted at 3:06 am on Sat, Dec 8, 2007.


    If people would QUIT giving the drunks money, thinking they are "Helping them"...less booze means less problems and less crime! It's a "No brainer"; but still, soft hearted people give out of the thought they are helping someone have a good meal! The reality is they are gettig high or drunk!

  • posted at 3:05 am on Sat, Dec 8, 2007.


    You, city leaders, and your jolly little elves have brought these illegal and legal immigrants here, stuffed them into their own poor, rundown part of town, use them and even exploit them for your own profit and now it's finally time to realize that you might just be responsible for caring for and taking care of these same persons lives and neighborhood. When the government does this for you, it's nothing but plain old Lodi Welfare.

  • posted at 3:00 am on Sat, Dec 8, 2007.


    You hypocrites could clean up the eastside and cherokee lane with one serious phone call to ICE(IMMIGRATION) to work with LPD to clean up and deport ALL illegals. but then that'd take your blight designation and your precious government dollars away. I don't understand why you would spend money REDOING cherokee when it was already done once not too long ago. Seems to me like maybe getting those water meters would be a more critical issue than cherokee. You'll try to use PRIVATE eminant domain on those rundown motels.

  • posted at 2:59 am on Sat, Dec 8, 2007.


    To ANYONE walking down the street, driving down the street, riding the bus or looking out their window that the "Alcohol businesses" are keeping the "Transients" on Cherokee! The public and the police must put up with their drunk behavior while those who SELL them booze make "Profits"!

  • posted at 2:51 am on Sat, Dec 8, 2007.


    What a lovely area for that new "affordable" housing project for the underprivileged and elderly. And Lodi calls this planning? Mayor Mounce, when you throw this redevelopment thing on us, please appoint an oversight committee of REGULAR citizens and not gob's that'll distribute those funds amongst their own little scam businesses under different names. I thought this "blight" was supposed to be the actual eastside residential areas? Now, it's Cherokee and land owned by Geweke. Connect the dots.

  • posted at 2:44 am on Sat, Dec 8, 2007.


    ex-chief Hansen if it's not a conspiracy then why did you let Cherokee and the eastside become slum and blighted all those years you were chief? Geweke owns much of that land and us taxpayers are going TO PAY him to move his car dealership and his duaghters motel? The east side was run down by you and your lack of stopping crime in that area. Why don't you ask Mayor Mounce about that?

  • posted at 2:38 am on Sat, Dec 8, 2007.


    Oh forgot to mention those elements along with your drug addicts, drunks, and prostitutes, but that IS the first thing many people see when they come up Cherokee. A 3rd world, socialist, mentality will bring you 3rd world Socialism. Deport the illegals, and enact gang injunctions

  • posted at 2:37 am on Sat, Dec 8, 2007.


    So, the 20 year old mom with the 2 year old child thinks there is a problem? So do I? Too many irresponsible people, including many teenagers having babies that taxpayers are paying for. There is also a big drug problem in the area that is pushed by the illegal aliens and Nortenos. .

  • posted at 2:13 am on Sat, Dec 8, 2007.


    And this is a problem nation wide. Confusing correlation with causality. If the two were related the problems on Cherokee would manifest themselves on Kettleman and downtown. There will be a lot of hand wringing over correlation, but there may be nothing you can do about it other than turn communist and shut down businesses. Oh that's right this town is good for doing that.

  • posted at 2:02 am on Sat, Dec 8, 2007.


    I know the city is serious about this issue. We tried to permit a new Propane Dispenser at one of the mini marts in question and they were quite frank in telling us that it didn't fit into their plans for the area.



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