The Downtown Bar Scene Mapped

During last night’s council meeting a public comment was made in relation to how many liquor licenses we have in the Downtown Fullerton area and I think this data is often lost on people, especially when City staff tries to wave it away as though things are the same all over when they’re not.

To clear up some of the confusion I decided to map how many bars we have in Fullerton using the California Alcohol Board Commission’s data on active liquor licenses. You can see the map here;

You’ll notice how many liquor licenses are concentrated in the Downtown area. For reference I color coded them by License Type as defined by the CA ABC.

The types are basically;

Type 40: Bars that only sell beer and wine that have to sell some sort of snacky food.
Type 41: Restaurants that only sell beer and wine.
Type 42: Bars that only sell beer and wine but no food at all.
Type 47: Restaurants that sell all types of alcohol and have to serve food as a “bona fide eating place” which used to mean over 50% of sales coming from food. Most of our “nightclubs” pretend to fall under this category.
Type 48: Bar, Night Club. All types of alcohol and no food is required. A lot of locations should be required to have this particular license.

Fullerton defines the Downtown area, or the Downtown Business District, as sitting between the aqueduct to the North (just passed the Fox Block and what used to be Angelo’s) and the Transportation Center to the South, Malden to the West and Pomona to the East.

To add some contrast, you can compare Fullerton to Garden Grove and Santa Ana with the following map. I chose Garden Grove as staff often compares us to them and I chose Santa Ana because they’re twice our size and have a downtown that is likewise often mentioned by staff when discussing our downtown area and licensing.

For reference, Fullerton has about 143,000 people to Garden Grove‘s 171,000 and Santa Ana‘s 310,000.

The interesting thing to note here is the distance between bars. While Santa Ana does have a downtown area, we outpace them in concentrated licenses and Garden Grove doesn’t even come close.

You’ll notice that Garden Grove has the largest concentration of licenses down Garden Grove Boulevard and it covers 1.5 miles. Our Downtown is 0.5 miles, or half a mile. Even if we push the boundary of “Downtown” all the way to The Olde Ship that’s still only 1 mile North to South.

Fullerton has 168 of the above type liquor licenses and 52 of them are in the Downtown Business area which represents 1.45 squares miles of our 22.42sq mile city. Just shy of 1/3 of all the bars within the city sit within that 1.4 miles area.

Comparing this to Garden Grove, their 1.5 mile stretch of Garden Grove Boulevard with the highest bar concentration contains 35 of the 179 counted liquor licenses. Garden Grove is smaller in area at 17.96sq miles but has about 30,000 more people than we do which means a higher population density.

Santa Ana, whose Downtown which is pretty close to the same size as ours, has 37 of their 248 bars in that area. Santa Ana is bigger than Fullerton as it covers 27.34sq miles and yet despite Santa Ana covering more land and having more than twice our population, we shove 50% more bars into our Downtown area.

Fullerton, especially our Downtown, seems to be an absolute outlier in the region with our large concentration of bars in such a small area.

I find it quite interesting to have a visual representation of how our local alcohol scene actually appears, so hopefully you find this data interesting as well.