Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Chris Wissmann on Liquor Ordinance Changes

Emailed Councilman Wissmann for his take on the proposed changes to the liquor ordinance changes,  With his permission, below is his response:

I would understand the arguments about consumer choice if alcohol was not already dirt cheap and easily available in Carbondale. Liquor isn't tube socks- someone who buys a case of cheap imported footware isn't as a result going to drive well over the speed limit, jump a median, and kill passengers in an oncoming car. There is no need to further erode the economic barriers to overconsumption in Carbondale, low as they already are. And should the price of liquor decline through the competition brought by an expansion of licenses, unless the volume of liquor sales also increases (which would require a substantial and unlikely increase in local of-age population and buying power), then the city will actually see a decrease in tax revenues from liquor sales- the city derives more from a $7.99 six-pack than it does off a $3 six-pack.

Those who think that seven local families who own eight liquor stores constitute a monopoly need to think about what to call a situation when three or four massive corporations, with pockets deep enough to bankrupt small competitors through unfair trade practices like dumping, take over the local retail-liquor industry. That certainly does not constitute an expansion of customer choice.

There's many few technical parts of the proposals that bother me. Here are a few:

*       If under either proposal we must suspend or revoke a grocery license, must that licensee completely shut down operations, or can it continue to sell groceries and merchandise other than liquor? If the latter, then we're creating an incredibly unfair system- liquor stores can completely go out of business if they're forced to close for even a few weeks, but groceries lose just a small portion of their business. (That, and the issues raised by underage patrons, is the point of the separate entrance requirement.)

*       Walmart, Schnuck's, and Kroger can all afford to pay the same license fee as local licensees. So can Walgreen's and CVS if somehow they qualify as groceries under the proposed ordinances. There's absolutely no reason to give them discounts on license fees. None.

*       Why under these proposals can grocery stores continue to operate twenty-four/seven if they shut off liquor sales at an appointed hour, while restaurants, bars, and liquor stores cannot? Either everyone shuts down at the close of liquor sales, or everyone can operate as long as they stop liquor sales by the appointed hour.

It's also worth noting that thus far this issue has generated only ten constituent emails, maximum, during the last month. During the five days between the announcement of the Saluki Way proposal and the council's vote, I received about sixty emails, phone calls, and even a couple of snail-mail letters. When former mayor Brad Cole mentioned the possibility of selling the city's public-works department, I received more than one-hundred citizen contacts during the following two weeks. During the last six months or so that expansion of the Class C licenses has allegedly been an issue- fanned mostly by a shallow news media- I've literally received more emails about backyard chickens (mostly in favor, by the way). Supposedly seven-thousand people signed petitions to get liquor into grocery stores, but a lot fewer people than that voted in the municipal election last April, so I don't see real grassroots support for it.

1 comment:

  1. He makes some very good points, especially about the price to be paid by the grocery stores, and their influence on locally owned liquor stores. It was also interesting to hear how few letters he's received on the subject. Thanks for the post.