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W’bago council says no to plans for liquor store

By Staff | Feb 19, 2012

Chris Ziegler

Winnebago’s City Council voted Tuesday to drop the subject of creating a city-owned off-sale liquor store.

The issue was tabled at January’s council meeting, allowing more time for council members to research the subject.

During the 30 days between meetings, city officials discovered from the state that if there is a municipal liquor store in town, there cannot be a private off-sale liquor store.

“I am in favor of the city staying out of private business,” says Councilman Rick Johnson. “I don’t feel it’s something we should do.”

Councilman Chris Ziegler also took advantage of the extra time by discussing the project with members of the public.

“Not one member of the public I spoke with was in favor of it,” he says. “Besides having additional income for the city, I don’t see any positives in it.”

Originally, Councilman Scott Robertson and City Administrator Austin Bleess discussed with Dave Schuster of Schooter’s Bar and Grill about the possibility of the city buying his liquor store.

Robertson told the council since then he has become a little leary of the purchasing price of the building.

“This is a revenue situation,” he says. “We have to make it feasible for the city and at this point I am not sure if it is.”

Another hindrance to the project was the length of time required to set it in motion. A state law requires a one-year waiting period for a municipality to open a liquor store.

If the council would have voted in favor of the project Tuesday, they would have had to publish a notice in the city’s legal newspaper pushing back the earliest possible opening date to Feb. 21, 2013.

In other items the council:

Approved an off-sale liquor license application for Darrel Robertson, doing business as Ashian Services Group LLC.

Robertson requested an off-sale license for the location at 510 Main St. South currently owned by the State Bank of Easton.

During the public comment portion of the council meeting, Schuster of Schooter’s Bar and Grill expressed his concerns about another off-sale liquor store operating in town.

“I feel this town can’t support it,” Schuster says to the council. “If two stores are competing with each other, we are going to have a problem. Someone is going to go broke. If there is something I could do better, I would like to know.”

Schuster’s concerns are not new. In April and May of 2010, he approached the council asking how many off-sale licenses the city can issue.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Bleess told council members the city can issue however many off-sale licenses it wishes.

“In looking at other cities comparable to us it varies widely,” he says. “Some have only one off-sale liquor store, some have more.”

Council members Johnson and Stacy Huntington-Scofield voted in favor of granting the license.

“I believe in the free enterprise system,” Johnson says. “If anyone wants to get in business, I don’t have a problem with it.”

Councilman Robertson abstained from voting and Councilman Ziegler opposed the motion.

Ziegler brought up earlier in the discussion that to his recollection, the city has never issued an off-sale license without it also being accompanied by an on-sale business.

To see more of this article, see this week’s Register.