Council rejects retail liquor license bid

by Emmitt B. Feldner
of The Review staff

PLYMOUTH – The City Council rebuffed the first applicant for one of the city’s newly-available retail liquor store licenses Tuesday.

Citing its proximity to two existing license holders, the council narrowly rejected the application from Plymouth BP on Eastern Avenue for a class A liquor license.

The vote was 4-3, with aldermen Jim Faller, Greg Hildebrand and Jim Sedlacek voting to grant the license and Alderman Shawn Marcom absent.

“I’m going to vote no because of the proximity to other liquor stores,” Council President Charles Hansen said in explaining his vote. He pointed to existing retail liquor licenses at Piggly Wiggly across the street from Plymouth BP and Cut Rate Liquors to the east on Eastern Avenue.

City code for years had limited liquor store licenses to just four, but as part of the recent license ordinance revisions, the number was tied to the city’s population and set at one per 1,000 of population.

That means four more class A licenses are available and Megha Harin of Plymouth BPA was the first to apply for one of the new licenses for his gas station/convenience store.

City Clerk/Treasurer Patty Huberty pointed out that Harin would utilize a section of the store currently used to sell tobacco products to sell liquor.

His plan is to close off the room, with a separate entrance and separate cash register, in order to meet the city code, Huberty added.

The license would have been subject to final inspection by the fire department.

Several aldermen raised questions about the license and the proposed premises, but Alderman David Williams said those concerns were moot, “if they meet the requirements of the ordinance.

“The gentleman applying for this is only taking advantage of what the council passed. I think the horse is out of the barn and it’s run over the hill,” Williams added.

Huberty noted that the council does have discretion under the ordinance to grant or deny a license.

City Attorney Crystal Fieber concurred, but added, “There needs to be a rational basis for denial.”

Alderman Jim Sedlacek, noting that the Plymouth BP is within 500 feet of two other license holders, asked Fieber if that would be a reasonable basis for denial, “or are we opening ourselves up for litigation.”

Fieber said it could be a reason for denial, but that it could be open to appeal and an ultimate ruling by a court.

“I think we have a good reason with the close proximity of other existing licenses,” Williams agreed.

“Once you OK this, there’s going to be a couple more within a shorter distance,” Alderman Jack Fernsler warned.

But that drew a rebuke from Faller.

“We should not be regulating competition of business,” he stated. “We have restaurants right next to each other and we don’t tell them the same thing.”

Faller minimized the potential impact of the new license on the existing nearby stores, pointing out that the BP would only be able to carry a limited stock of liquor in the proposed location. “I doubt they’ll make any huge impact”

Alderman John Nelson joined Fernsler, Hansen and Williams in voting to deny the license.


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