Committee opts for tighter liquor store license rules

by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff

PLYMOUTH – The city should make more retail liquor store licenses available, but with conditions.

The Ad-hoc Liquor License Ordinance Study Committee reaffirmed that recommendation to the City Council at their meeting Thursday.

The committee picked up its deliberations where they had left off at their last meeting, on the issue of class B retail beer and liquor licenses.

The committee had rescinded its earlier recommendation to increase the city-imposed limit on liquor store licenses from four to six,

Committee member Carole O’Malley proposed that any new licenses that might be allowed should go only to new buildings or unlicensed entities in existing buildings.

“Personally, I’m saying let’s encourage new growth,” in the city, rather than allowing existing businesses to add liquor sales, O’Malley explained.

She contended that the purpose of any new licenses should be to spur economic development. O’Malley questioned the impact of an existing store – such as Walmart or Walgreens – remodeling to create a liquor department and either not adding any additional employees or just one or two new employees at most.

Alderman Jim Faller questioned why the city would try to discourage licenses for existing businesses.

“Are we protecting Piggly Wiggly and Pick and Save,” he asked, citing two current class B license holders. “Is that the goal of this? I think that’s ridiculous. I’m a believer in the free enterprise system.

“We keep talking about business, but what’s best for the consumer,” Faller continued. “What’s best for the consumer is more people selling. We have far too many restrictions on lots of things in this city already.”

Committee members did not take a formal vote on changing the number of available licenses, but reached a general consensus that the number should be increased.

City Administrator Brian Yerges noted that the city’s limit of four such licenses is far fewer than most comparable municipalities in the state.

“Ours is about the smallest number of licenses in this category,” he said, citing a list compiled by the city clerk’s office.

In the end, the committee approved O’Malley’s motion – with Faller casting the lone no vote – with the understanding that the City Council should consider increasing the number of available licenses under those conditions.

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