Local business

Will pharmacy war lead to new restrictions in Berkeley?

This Walgreens on Shattuck is moving within two blocks of a CVS store

[This story was updated on 4/19/11.]

As the retail war between CVS and Walgreens heats up in Berkeley, Mayor Tom Bates is calling for a new law that prohibits any new pharmacy from locating within 1,000 feet of another pharmacy.

Bates will ask the City Council on April 26 to consider the new restrictions. If adopted, the planning department would work to amend the city’s zoning ordinances to add the changes.

“Everywhere you turn you see a Walgreens or CVS,” said Julie Sinai, Mayor Bates’ chief of staff. Bates was on vacation and could not be reached.

“It’s happening all over the place,” said Sinai. “A Walgreens is moving into the Elephant Pharmacy [right near CVS on Shattuck Avenue]. You have Walgreens and CVS right downtown a few blocks from one another. We feel there needs to be encouragement of diversity. This proliferation of drug stores is beyond the pale.”

Pharmacy officials do not think that the government should decide the location of a store.

“We believe the market should determine the best location to operate a drugstore, not additional government regulation,” said Robert Elfinger, a media specialist for Walgreens. “Our stores also create good retail and construction jobs and contribute to the local tax base.  We also believe that restrictions on businesses that create jobs are not good for the local economy.”

Berkeley zoning ordinances prohibit do not create the conditions that easily permit big-box stores, so pharmacies have moved in to fill the void, according to Dave Fogarty, Berkeley’s economic development project coordinator. While pharmacy sales account for 4.88% of retail sales in California as a whole, they account for 9.57% of sales in Berkeley, according to information in the 2007 Census of Retail Trade.

“The most logical explanation for this is simply that Berkeley does not have discount ‘general merchandise stores’ like Target, K-Mart or Wal-Mart,” said Fogarty. “Berkeley residents therefore tend to do a larger proportion of their shopping for general household goods at Walgreens and CVS. Of course, the census doesn’t tell us what people are buying, but it is unlikely that sales of drugs and pharmaceutical products themselves would be disproportionately higher here than elsewhere in California.”

Pharmacies in Berkeley, like elsewhere, also sell groceries, stationery supplies, and household goods in addition to medicine. Many are also now trying to sell alcohol, which is another reason Bates is interested in limiting their locations.

“Unfortunately, an important part of their product mix is the sale of alcoholic beverages, leading to a proliferation of off-sale alcohol permit applications,” reads a portion of the proposed ordinance.

Bates’ proposal comes up at a time when word is leaking out about another attempt by the dueling pharmacy chains to locate close to one another. CVS is apparently inquiring, according to some city sources,  about leasing an old bingo parlor on San Pablo Avenue and Gilman – kitty corner from an existing Walgreens.

Last year, Walgreens took over the location of the old Elephant Pharmacy on Shattuck and Cedar – about two blocks away from an existing CVS. And there are also rumors that the Walgreens at 2187 Shattuck (near Allston) is hoping to move into the site of the old Ross store across the street, just two blocks from a CVS store.

Michael J. DeAngelis, a spokesman for CVS, said the firm has two stores in Berkeley and is not planning any new ones now.

Walgreens currently has four stores in Berkeley and is opening another on Shattuck in the near future.

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  • Anonymous

    the three squares on the building represent 3 square meals lucky was trying to promote (look at the big sign structure).

  • Anonymous


  • Mike Farrell

    Probably a playground for Garfield Jr. High

  • Mike Farrell

    Actually there are only two; the then current crop of Berkeleyites felt that the typical three squares was too prominent and disruptive to their peace and harmony. A compromise was reached and this may have been the only Lucky with a circumcised tower.

    A side note: The Lucy Tower was designed by Raymond Lowey, a leading American industrial designer. You may not be familiar with him but another of his designs is the sleek and timeless 1053 Studebaker.

  • Mike Farrell

    LucKy, 1953

  • Anonymous

    the third square was a window at ground level it’s since been covered up when longs or bills came into the building it is a facade of brick i think.

  • Mike Farrell

    This particular Lucky had a doorway that opened onto Shattuck; It was at a 90 deg. angle to the tower. I don’t believe it would ever appeared to be a graphic element of the tower.
    As an aside I found a (now destroyed) 2 square tower in Palo Alto.

  • Can’t imagine how a competitor coming in now could be anything but good for consumers. Jobs, tax revenue, and parking. Sounds about right for both Shattuck and Gilman/San Pablo locations.

  • Anonymous

    Hmmm, Since cannabis sales are not allowded within 1,000 ft. of schools or churches does not the same apply to liquor stores and pharmacies which, by the way  cause of thousands of deaths & murders annually ? If the dispensaries are banned ( marijuana kills nobody ) then liquor stores and pharmacies must be banned, too .