While Statesboro is in the process of legalizing liquor stores, two established businesses with many local customers, Two Guys Beer, Wine & Tobacco and County Line Package Shop, have been frequently mentioned as likely to seek liquor licenses or location reservations in the near future.
Two Guys, in College Plaza on Fair Road in Statesboro, sells beer and wine for off-premises consumption, plus cigars and a few other tobacco products. But selling distilled liquors will still require a new license.
“We are definitely interested,” said Two Guys business manager Chay Duffin. “Our boss has just been like, OK, you need to go to every meeting and make sure you know everything that’s happening so we can apply immediately.”
In fact, Duffin and assistant manager Jeffrey Johnson have attended several Statesboro City Council meetings where the Package Stores Ordinance has been debated and developed. At Tuesday’s meeting, council members by a 4-1 vote approved a first reading and sent the ordinance forward to a second reading and potential adoption Feb. 15.
The opportunity to “apply immediately” apparently won’t arrive before March 15, the effective date in the proposed ordinance, subject to change.
As currently proposed, the ordinance will require any two liquor stores to be at least 1,000 yards apart, double the distance required under state law. But the council and Mayor Jonathan McCollar abandoned the idea of setting a limit on the number of licenses that will be granted.
“I really like the parameters that they’ve set up and not trying to put a limitation on licenses, because I agree with what another community member said, that it might cause a panic and rush of people who don’t necessarily want to open a store but they want to have it just in case,” Duffin said in a phone interview Tuesday.
“We’re just really hopeful that we can get a license before someone else gets one close to our business location, since they did up it to 1,000 yards away,” she said. “But we’re established, and we scan IDs no matter how old you are.”
Duffin has been the store’s manager for about eight years. A 2011 Georgia Southern University graduate, she started work there around 2013 and was made manager after about six months, she said. The original Two Guys owners were Michael Kay and Jason Palmer of Vidalia, but current owner Nick Patel of Swainsboro purchased the Statesboro store from them last year.
Plan to expand
In the current version of the ordinance, Statesboro City Council has also added a strictly local requirement that a liquor store must have at least 3,000 square feet of floor space, including any product storage area as well as the showroom. Duffin said she didn’t know the Two Guys shop’s current square footage, but Patel and associates have plans to expand it into a neighboring, vacant section of the shopping center.
“Once the ordinance is approved, they’re talking with the landlord about taking over part of that, to expand our floor space, and they already have funds set aside to put towards liquor,” Duffin said. “They’re very, very excited about bringing liquor in, and they’ve already told us they’ll give us raises and we can hire more people, so we’re also excited.”
She said she nearly “panicked” when some city officials during a previous meeting mentioned the possibility of prohibiting the sale of tobacco products at liquor stores. But the council dropped that idea, prohibiting only lottery ticket sales and check cashing services beyond what is otherwise prohibited for liquor stores under Georgia law.
But the council, invoking a local option available under state law since 2020, proposes removing the state’s default requirement that a liquor store be at least 200 yards from any college campus. This was reassuring news to the Two Guys manager, since College Plaza is across the highway from some of the university’s practice fields.
“We think we were, like, right on cusp of 200 yards from Georgia Southern, because I don’t know how close the field is and if it’s a building or the field that counts,” Duffin said.
The County Line
Meanwhile, the owners of County Line Package Shop, which is just across the Candler County line near Pulaski, hope to open a store in Statesboro. The official owners are Landrum Hodges and business partner Sam Johnson, but Hodges’ wife, Pam Hodges, has been the main spokesperson for the company during Statesboro’s process to legalize liquor stores.
She has regularly attended meetings, and sometimes spoken to the mayor and council, since before the Nov. 2 referendum.
“It seems things change every time we go in there, so we’re just kind of waiting till it all settles down to see what the final results are going to be and see if it’s feasible or what we’re going to do,” Hodges said.
She and her husband and their daughter, who works at the County Line, had attended Tuesday’s meeting.
“So far, so good,” Hodges said on the phone later. “It’s just we still don’t know what all they’re going to implement in it and how the application process is going to go and if it’s opened up to out-of-town people or if it’s just Bulloch County people.”
The proposed ordinance does not put include any residency requirement.
But the Hodgeses are Bulloch County residents who own property in Statesboro, and County Line Package Shop is a member of the Statesboro-Bulloch Chamber of Commerce. Landrum Hodges and Sam Johnson, longtime donors to Georgia Southern, have owned the Candler County store for almost 40 years, after Pam Hodges’ father established a package shop at the line in the 1950s.
Now the Hodgeses have a site in mind for a new Statesboro store.
“The opportunity to come into town has been nonexistent for all these years,” she said. “My daddy had a liquor store prior to us, so we got it from him. So we’ve been in the liquor business for a long time. It’s just an opportunity to come into your home town, and we just want it to be fair. … It’s just our livelihood.”