I really didn’t think that Wegmans would be denied their liquor store. The audacity displayed by the grocery giant — building the inhouse liquor store before being granted a license, putting the “separate business” in the name of Christopher O’Donnell, husband of Wegmans President Colleen Wegman — led me to believe it was a done deal. But the Howard County Alcohol Beverage Hearing Board voted unanimously on Monday to deny the license.
The hearing was almost exclusively a fight between competing business interests. Area liquor stores constituted most of the opposition, whereas the community at large was represented most strikingly by their absence. ABHB member Anne Santos pointed out that only one person not affiliated with the petition testified in support of the store, which prompted Santos to move to deny the license on the grounds that it was “not necessary for the accommodation of the public.”
Sure, there are already “13 liquor stores within a three-mile radius” of the location, but since when has the logic of a store’s placement been an issue. I can’t imagine a 7-Eleven has ever been denied the right to operate just because there are a bunch more close by. When I’m itching for a Diet Mountain Dew, there are four locations near my apartment to try. A much stronger case can be made that the liquor license is “for use in conjunction with” a chain store or grocery store, which is forbidden by state law. Well, whatever — it’s done. All that’s left is for Wegmans to decide what to do with that empty room on the second floor.
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