City Council on Tuesday evening approved the first four “location reservations” for liquor stores to be established in Statesboro. All four are planned to be created by renovating existing buildings.
In one instance, the council members decided between two applicants whose proposed liquor store locations are within 1,000 yards of each other. By approving an application for a new business called Blue Mile Wine & Spirits to be created by renovating the vacant former Midtown Bar & Grill building at 12 Brannen St., the council in effect denied the application of Two Guys Beverage, an established beer and wine package shop at Suite 410 in College Plaza, 520 Fair Road, to add distilled spirits and expand into a neighboring space in the plaza.
A previous council decision, in establishing the city law section on liquor stores at an earlier meeting, had made 1,000 yards – double the distance required under state law – the minimum spacing between liquor stores in Statesboro.
During a work session before Tuesday’s 5:30 p.m. regular meeting, City Manager Charles Penny told council members he would make a recommendation on the Two Guys versus Blue Mile Wine & Spirits proximity conflict if they wanted one. They did, and he explained that recommendation during the regular meeting, after the mayor and council heard from the manager and assistant manager of Two Guys Beer Wine & Tobacco and from one of the owner-applicants for Blue Mile Wine & Spirits and their attorney.
“The contribution to long-range viability of areas of the city is critical, the redevelopment of a property that has been vacant and dormant for a number of years, which also had some history that wasn’t always so good,” Penny said, after listing other factors he considered.
The old Midtown Bar & Grill building proposed to become Blue Mile Wine & Spirits had sat dormant, and he soon confirmed that it was the site he was recommending. Both it and Two Guys Beverage are within the South Main Street Tax Allocation District, but Penny said that the increase in property value resulting from the proposed major renovation of the vacant Brannen Street building would generate more revenue for the TAD fund.
“The location has plenty of available parking,” Penny continued. “The location will contribute more tax increments to the South Main Street TAD. … and the location is within the DSDA (Downtown Statesboro Development Authority) area, which will have to comply with exterior design requirements.”
Two Guys Beer Wine & Tobacco, now owned by 3 Brothers 2021 LLC, led by Niranjan Patel of Swainsboro, has operated a Statesboro store for about eight years. Manager Chay Duffin, who has been working there since about six months after it opened, said the store has created jobs for many university students whom she has given references as they go on to other work.
“If we add a liquor store we’ll continue to be good stewards of the community and I can hire some more people to work in the store as well, and I certainly hope we have an opportunity to continue serving the community,” Duffin told the council.
‘Blue Mile’ store
But local attorney Chris Gohagan presented the Blue Mile Wine & Spirits proposal on behalf of its owner-applicants – Kaleo Lyles, Al Chapman, William Bridwell and Prashant Patel – and Chapman also spoke. Gohogan noted that the owners already hold four separate alcohol licenses in Statesboro. Among them are those of Gnat’s Landing and Del Sur, restaurants on South Main Street.
Gohagan’s presentation included photos of the former bar and grill building and colorful concept renderings of the proposed liquor store exterior.
The council’s vote approving the Blue Mile Wine & Spirits location was 5-0. This was actually the last of the four location applications approved Tuesday. A single agenda item listed the Two Guys application as option “A” and the Blue Mile application as option “B.”
All five applications presented, including that of Two Guys, had cleared a review by city staff members, including criminal background checks of the applicants.
Other approved sites
The first two locations approved were not controversial, since no other applicants appeared within a 1,000-yard radius.
The very first application approved was that for Clarke Beverages, proposed by owner-applicant Stephen Bradley Clarke, for 607 Brannen St., Suite 4. A pizza place previously occupied this space in an existing commercial complex.
After the 5-0 council vote, Mayor Jonathan McCollar told Clarke, “You just made history.”
The second unanimous approval went to S’Boro Liquors, 860 Buckhead Drive, proposed by FTJ Enterprises LLC, owner Robert Baughn. This is in the block with a Subway sandwich shop and a Pizza Hut, but the liquor store space faces Buckhead instead of the bypass.
L/C Package Sales, 2823 Northside Drive West, applied for by owner Lindsay Martin, was the third site approved. But the proposal met with some controversy from owners of a sixth site, at least during the formal hearing and discussion.
Gohagan, as attorney for Martin, also spoke to the council in support of the L/C Package application. Martin owns and operates MSO Water Service and some other local businesses, including South Georgia Gun & Title Pawn, which is in the building proposed for L/C Package. No jobs will be lost, but eight to 12 will be created, in the conversion to a liquor store, Gohagan said.
Representatives of the sixth would-be liquor store, North Boro Liquors, applicant Corn Needs Waters LLC, with identified manager Hilary Joyner, appeared before the council seeking to develop the store at 2390 Northside Drive West, the former Boyd’s Barbecue building. That would be within 1,000 yards of the L/C Package Sales location.
An attorney for Corn Needs Waters LLC, Andrew Lavoie, sought equal consideration for its application or a delay in the council’s decision on L/C Package Sales to allow that. Todd Mackintosh, who owns the former Boyd’s building and served on the mayor’s ad hoc advisory committee for the liquor store rules, asked if the city officials might arrive at a resolution that would allow both proposed stores to exist so that he could complete the sale of the building.
But the L/C Package application had been submitted April 1, the first day the city accepted applications, and its review by city staff had been completed. In contrast, the North Boro application had been received only Monday, April 18, so no review had been done, City Clerk Leah Harden reported. The application was dated April 15, but Lavoie said the required fingerprinting was done Monday.
Because the North Boro proposal was not a reviewed application, Penny and McCollar both said there was no conflict requiring a recommendation or delay, and council unanimously approved the L/C Package sales application.
That wasn’t all
In fact, 13 applications had been received at City Hall before the one for North Boro, including eight not presented for action Tuesday. Most are awaiting completion of reviews by city staff and a required posting of notices at the sites.
City officials expect at least some of those eight to be presented brought to the council for approval at future meetings, including at least one set presenting a proximity conflict. But the city clerk can also deny applications that do not meet basic requirements upon review by city staff. In such cases the denied applicant may appeal to council.
When an application is denied by council, the applicant has a right to challenge the decision in the Bulloch County Superior Court.
Even the four approved applicants still have other steps to complete, including state licensing, provision of city-required liability insurance, building permits and the renovations.