ORANGE COUNTY: The Southern California town of Anaheim, home to Disneyland, is caught in an image crisis after a Mexican grocery chain charged town leaders with racist actions.
Gigante USA, the American division of one of Mexico's largest grocery retailers, publicly questioned Anaheim's motives for rejecting a liquor license for the store's first Orange County location. The rejection came last week, after months of tension between the grocer and the town over finding an appropriate location for the store that caters to Latino shoppers.
"When I first started this, I was a little naive. I didn't think prejudice toward Latino entities really existed, Gigante USA president Justo Frias told the AP. "Regretfully, it does. The fact that we sell tacos and bolillos instead of chicken Kiev to go - that is the reason."
Ronald Stockdale, leasing agent for one of the proposed Gigante sites, added, "It's the most thinly veiled act of discrimination I've seen in quite some time."
Anaheim officials quickly denied the racism allegations, saying that the liquor license was denied due to high crime rates in the area and an abundance of existing liquor outlets.
However, local media picked up the story, as well as Gigante's allegations that Anaheim's mayor had made a previous request that the grocer not move into another high-profile location because the city wanted a store that could provide sales tax. Most groceries are exempt from such taxes. Later, how-ever, Gigante learned that an American grocer was being considered for the very same location.
Anaheim's redevelopment director also recently sent a letter to the mangers of Gigante's current location, threatening to withdraw a city subsidy if Gigante moved in because the store "does not cater to the public at large."
US census figures show that the area around the Gigante store is more than 60% Hispanic, and that the overall Hispanic population in Anaheim is 46.8%.
Gigante plans to appeal the liquor permit decision later this month.