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Clarke Beverages II set to be first Statesboro liquor store
Owner of shop on Brannen Street also has one in Newington; meanwhile, another owner gets city license on Northside Drive
Bradley Clarke, background, hoists a box while getting some help from friends James Johnston and Erika Driggers as he readies Clarke Beverages II on Brannen Street to become Statesboro's first package liquor store to open.
Bradley Clarke, background, hoists a box while getting some help from friends James Johnston and Erika Driggers as he readies Clarke Beverages II on Brannen Street to become Statesboro's first package liquor store to open. - photo by By SCOTT BRYANT/staff

Store owner Bradley Clarke and the wholesale beverage distributors he deals with took a hands-on approach this week, carefully placing thousands of bottles on shelves and stacking hundreds of cardboard-boxed cases as the first liquor store in Statesboro accumulated an estimated $750,000 worth of inventory.

Clarke hoped to open his store Monday, June 27, but as of midday Friday was still was not certain about that opening date. The arrival of a permanent sign for Clarke Beverages II was probably a few of weeks away, he said, but he expected to have a temporary sign in hand Friday. That wasn’t the only detail remaining to tack down, as representatives from various distributors continued to wheel in hand trucks loaded with more cases.

He cited that three-quarters of a million dollars estimate in answer to a reporter’s question and noted that inventory is usually the largest part of a package shop owner’s investment.

“That’s inventory only,” Clarke said. “That’s where all your money is at.”

By equipping a 2,500-square-foot space in an existing commercial building as a liquor store, he kept that part of the preparations relatively simple. Cleaning, painting and installation of shelves preceded stocking. Clarke Beverages II is at 607 Brannen St. in the storefront that once housed Southern Sound, beside what is now Peachtree Hams & Café.

 

Newington name

Statesboro’s first store since Prohibition licensed to sell distilled spirits for off-premises consumption has a “II” in its official name because Clarke already owns and operates Clarke Beverages, a liquor store at Newington in Screven County. He has operated that store for 15 to 16 years now, and so knows something about liquor retailing.

Brannen Street has a high rate of traffic, so he hopes to do well there, he said, and mentioned a few expected differences from his Newington store.

“I’m in the country out there, so there’s a lot for me to learn over here and a different clientele,” Clarke said. “But we should have the product covered. We’ll add what we need as it’s requested, and every day you have to stay on top of it.  You have to stay on top of the prices changing or you won’t have your retail set (to sell and be profitable).

“It’s a lot to stay on top of,” he added. “There’s probably going to be 40,000-something different item numbers in this store.”

He said he was guessing at that number, but he knows the Newington store has about 29,000 numbered items and the Statesboro store will carry more.

A diversified small-business investor, Clarke also owns a convenience store in Newington but now leases it to another operator. He also does some farming, raising cattle and soybeans. His home is in rural Bulloch County, so he will be driving “back and forth” to look after both package shops.

He expects to employ eight to 12 people to keep Clarke Beverages II open during legal hours six days a week. He was still interviewing to hire more people, but some were hired and an experienced employee had been training them at the Newington store.

 

First of 6 approved

A 74% majority of Statesboro voters in a referendum held with the Nov. 2, 2021 city election authorized the mayor and City Council to issue licenses for the off-premises sale of distilled spirits. The council then enacted an ordinance amendment in March establishing rules for package shops.

Clarke’s was among the 12 applications for liquor store license “location reservations” received at City Hall on April 1, the first day applications were accepted. In April and May, the council approved six locations, Clarke’s among them, but rejected applications for six proposed stores because they were less than 1,000 yards from other applicants’ sites. The council had added that minimum distance in crafting the city’s ordinance, whereas state law requires a 500-yard distance between liquor stores.

In fact, Clarke’s site reservation was the first one approved, by a 5-0 council vote April 19, after which Mayor Jonathan McCollar told him, “You just made history.”

After Clarke met the full requirements, including providing proof of the special liability insurance Statesboro requires for alcohol establishments, final approval of his city license was grouped with other “consent agenda” items approved by the council June 7. He received the required, separate state license within a few days.

 

Second license granted

During Tuesday evening’s council meeting, another final city license was approved, again as part of the consent agenda, for a liquor store to be owned by Lindsay Martin at 2823 Northside Drive West. This was originally listed for a site reservation as “L/C Package Store,” but the license was granted this week under the business name BootLiquors LLC.

Martin operates MSO Water Systems Inc., providing water in residential subdivisions, and also owns South Georgia Gun & Title Pawn and invests in real estate and other businesses.

In fact, the 2823 Northside Drive West building is the current Statesboro location of South Georgia Gun & Title Pawn. But Martin said he is consolidating the business to his South Georgia Gun & Title Pawn location in Sylvania.

Then he plans to open the liquor store in the former pawnshop space on Northside Drive and put a drive-through Little Caesars beside it, in the same building.

Martin had picked up the city liquor license and a business license Thursday and was waiting for his state liquor license to arrive.

“We’re doing a little work in there too, but not much,” he said. “We don’t have that much work to do but just cleaning up and doing a few things inside, and we’ll be ready to open.”

But it will probably be a couple of months yet before BootLiquors opens, Martin said.

He said he is also buying land for a second liquor store, outside Statesboro but in Bulloch County. That store’s opening will depend on whether a majority of voters agree to legalize liquor stores in the unincorporated area. The county’s referendum is planned for the Nov. 8 election.

“Oh, it will pass,” Martin said confidently. “It’ll pass.”

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