Committee looks to modify stance on retail store liquor licenses

by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff

PLYMOUTH – The Ad-hoc Liquor License Ordinance Study Committee is revisiting its recommendation to increase the number of retail liquor licenses the city can issue.

As the panel approaches a year at work on the issue, it began a review Thursday of its work before submitting a final list of recommendations to the City Council.

That included a proposal to increase to six from the current four the number of class A combined beer and liquor licenses the city can issue. While state law limits the number of class B tavern licenses a municipality can issue, there is no such limit on licenses for retail liquor stores.

Committee member Pat Campbell, who had originally voted for the increase, said he had reservations now about making the licenses available to existing businesses.

“If we’re looking at it as strictly for economic development, I’m not sure it’s worth it,” Campbell stated. He pointed out that existing businesses that might seek a license, such as Walmart or Walgreens, would not add to jobs in a full liquor department but would simply shift existing personnel.

“I’d rather have these two extra (licenses) than to have nothing at all,” Alderman Greg Hildebrand commented.

His council colleague, Jim Faller, added that Ripon – a city with a smaller population than Plymouth – has nine retail liquor store licenses. He also noted that the city had inquiries from parties outside the city about obtaining a retail liquor license to open a new business in Plymouth.

City Clerk/Treasurer Patty Huberty suggested that other communities, when adding class A li- censes, had added a provision that they could not be issued to anyone who already held a class A beeronly license.

She explained that the goal in those municipalities was to prevent gas stations, convenience stores and other small outlets that sold beer from expanding to offer liquor for sale. She noted concerns over controlling sales to minors in such businesses.

“I could see that,” committee member Carole O’Malley said of limiting the new licenses to new businesses only.

With Hidebrand voting no, the committee voted to rescind its earlier recommendation to increase the class A combined licenses to six.

They added that they would like to see possible language prohibiting current holders of class A beer licenses from obtaining class A liquor licenses before deciding whether to increase the number of class A combined licenses with that restriction at their next meeting on Oct. 1.

The committee rejected an effort by Campbell and O’Malley to change the recommendation to increase liquor license renewal fees to $500.

Huberty explained that $500 is the maximum allowed under state law, but the city currently charges $400 for renewals of several classes of licenses.

Campbell and O’Malley, who both currently hold class B liquor licenses from the city, questioned whether the increase is necessary.

A motion to rescind the recommended increase for class A licenses failed by a 4-3 vote, with Mayor Donald Pohlman joining Campbell and O’Malley in voting to keep the fee at $400. Campbell’s motion to keep the class B fee at $400 failed to receive a second.

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