Carbondale Council Waits to Vote on Liquor Sales
UPDATED 11:00 p.m. TUESDAY, MAY 6, 2014
CARBONDALE -- The city council decided not to take action Tuesday night on expanding liquor sales to convenience stores. Despite passionate arguments from both sides, leaders were split on the issue and several sought more information before making a decision.
Gas stations and convenience stores in Carbondale want to be able to sell beer and wine. Grocery stores would like to sell hard liquor. The council needed four votes to make the change.
In the end, the council was divided: two in support, two against, and two without a clear stance. Councilman Lance Jack sat out since he owns a business that sells liquor.
Council members decided to table the issue for quite a while.
"I think it makes sense to allow expansion of beer and wine to convenience stores," Councilwoman Jane Adams argued.
"At this point, I say we leave it as it is and just leave it as is," countered Councilwoman Carolin Harvey.
The council asked City Manager Kevin Baity to look into how expansion of beer and wine sales at grocery stores has impacted all businesses that sell alcohol. They hope to get a report back on sales volumes by their July meeting.
Discussion of Halloween on the strip was also on Tuesday's agenda. Most of the council spoke in favor of allowing bars on the strip to remain open again in 2014. However, they did not make any formal decisions about the issue.
CARBONDALE -- Carbondale residents may soon have more options on where they can purchase alcohol.
On Tuesday night, city leaders will meet to consider allowing convenience stores to sell beer and wine and expanding liquor sales at grocery stores.
"A lot of customers come in looking for beer or wine," said Marketplace gas station manager Bruce Lawrence. "I've expected to have it for three years now, and the fact that the city hasn't allowed it has put us in this position."
A city ordinance prohibits alcohol sales at gas stations. Lawrence says it impacts both his business and customers.
"I think they come in expecting all gas stations to sell beer and wine and when we don't have it they are surprised," explained Lawrence.
Alcohol sales would increase his profits, but not everyone is in favor of dropping the ordinance.
"It's just going to dilute the market more," said Blue Fish Liquor manager Melissa Palmer.
She argues the change would result in not enough business for liquor stores.
"We have the same population of people purchasing alcohol, but it's just more options," explained Palmer.
In 2011, the council began allowing beer and wine sales at grocery stores, taking profits directly from liquor stores.
"We lost about 20 to 25 percent of our business," said Palmer.
She says allowing grocery stores to expand to hard liquor sales and promoting beer and wine purchases at gas stations would be a major blow to local liquor stores.
"Probably at least two stores that are locally owned by small business owners would probably be not be able to stay open," said Palmer.
Any changes in the liquor code would be up to the city council which meets at 7 p.m. at the Carbondale Civic Center.
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