Increasing retail liquor licenses a good idea

THERE ARE SOME THINGS that just about all of us should agree need some kind of control. For instance, we should all be able to agree that liquor and intoxicating beverages should not be sold to just anyone and not as easy to buy as a pack of gum or a candy bar.

That’s why the whole system of liquor licenses - and laws and ordinances regulating them – were created.

What becomes an issue very often is just how those rules and regulations should be written and enforced.

That’s what led to the creation in Plymouth of an Ad Hoc Liquor License Ordinance Committee.

That group is in the midst of dealing with a number of issues connected with the retail sale in the city of beer and alcohol, in individual drinks and in bottles, cans and other containers.

They focused on one particular issue at their last meeting – class A retail beer and liquor licenses.

That license is issued to retail establishments that sell beer, wine and alcohol in bottles and cans rather than in single drinks. City ordinances currently limit those to just four and all four are currently in use, meaning there is no license available for any other retail liquor business in the city.

The number of licenses – four – was set by the council a number of years ago when two grocery stores in the city sought to expand into retail liquor sales and a cheese store sought to sell liquor as well.

The number was based not on any specific formula – unlike the stateestablished limits on tavern licenses, one per 500 population – but only on the number of licenses the council at that time deemed prudent to issue.

Alderman Jim Faller questioned why the city does not allow more retail liquor licenses, as there are other businesses seeking such a license.

That spurred a healthy discussion, including a general affirmation of the council’s earlier decision not to issue such licenses to gas station/ convenience stores – a restriction which is codified in many other municipalities and probably should be in Plymouth as well.

The general consensus was that it would be a good step for the city to open up more retail liquor licenses, but to limit the number somehow as well.

Current restrictions in the city’s ordinances on retail liquor sales are effective at ensuring that only those establishments that are serious and responsible about controlling and limiting liquor sales and should remain in place.

Opening up more class A retail liquor licenses would be a good step, but it should be coupled with a specific limit on them that would still allow for future growth, similar to the limits on tavern licenses based on population.

Setting the number at one per 1,500 population would make one more retail liquor license available and one per 1,250 would create two new licenses – both reasonable numbers. Setting the limit at one per 1,000 would mean a total of eight licenses – four new ones – which would probably be too large and unnecessary a number.

There are still many larger questions ahead of the study committee, so they should resolve this one quickly and move on to tackling the bigger, thornier issues.

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