If critics are right, maybe Fresh & Easy should change its name to That Was Easy.

Some local leaders said today that at least one of the chain's stores, the one in Manhattan Beach, has been cited for selling booze to underage drinkers as a result of its unmanned, automated checkout system, which critics say is operating outside California law.

However, Fresh & Easy spokesman Brendan Wonnacott called BS on those claims, telling the Weekly

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… that the one citation received by the Manhattan Beach store earlier this year actually went to a (human) clerk who failed to check an ID.

A seeming mistake, sure. But not exactly the story critics are telling. In a statement they say:

Despite the enactment of a state ban (AB 183) on the sale of alcohol through self-checkout machines at the beginning of the year, grocery stores like Fresh & Easy are still being cited for selling alcohol to minors through these registers.

… Fresh & Easy stores have been cited multiple times for selling alcohol to minors through their self-checkout machines, including a citation at the Manhattan Beach store after the ban went into effect.

Though they say members of the clergy and community members are behind this move against Fresh and/or Easy, if you read between the lines, you start to see the bigger picture.

Backers of the critique include area assemblywoman Betsy Butler, the office of state Sen. Ted Lieu, and Clergy & Laity United for Economic Justice.

In fact, Fresh & Easy's Wonnacott spells it out:

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

Yeah. L.A. is a big labor town. And we don't like nonunion markets. (See the Chinatown Walmart saga).

Now, we're all for economic justice. But let's just call this what it is: A move against Fresh & Easy because it's not too friendly to local labor.

[@dennisjromero / djromero@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]

LA Weekly