The Payson council last week voted against letting another liquor store set up shop in town — for all the good that will do.
Owners of two existing liquor stores pleaded with the council to oppose an application for a liquor store at 100 E. Highway 260.
Even though the council agreed, Assistant Town Attorney Tim Wright predicted the council’s vote will carry little weight with the state liquor control board, which actually grants all liquor licenses.
“The (liquor control) board members will nod their heads and in the end they’ll vote” to approve the license, said Wright.
The application was filed by Elliott Jon Glasser and represented the transfer of a liquor license from an existing store in Hayden to Payson.
Still, representatives of several liquor stores won over the council with the argument that with 16 liquor outlets already, another store will just hurt the existing ones by dividing up the already well-liquored market.
“We’ve got enough horses in the race for a town this size,” said Nobel Collins, manager of The Beverage Place on Highway 260. “I don’t know where the customers for another outlet are going to come from. Logic will tell you the customers will come from the existing stores.”
Collins also complained that the application didn’t address problems getting onto and off of the highway at that location. “The plans look a bit dodgy,” he said.
Bill Olmstead, representing Rim Liquor, said that the liquor stores and the dozen or so bars “are an awful lot of outlets already. We have an ample number of businesses in town to meet the (community’s) liquor needs.”
He said, “I’m very much against another liquor store in town. All it’s going to do is cut jobs and eliminate businesses.”
He said the town doesn’t even have a normal complement of liquor store customers. “This town has a lot of retirees and a lot of church goers so we have a limited business. And people from out of town just go straight to Walmart.”
Olmstead said the application for the new liquor store showed a drive-through window on the plans — although Olmstead’s application for a drive-through window had been rejected when he came to town five years ago.
However, the plans showing a drive-through window had been modified to eliminate that option, said Wright, due to previous council objections to the flow of traffic off the highway, through the business and back onto the highway.
Olmstead said existing liquor stores in town are tough about enforcing liquor laws — especially when it comes to minors.
“These children come to test you — I see them sitting outside in the parking lot in two cars — deciding which youngster is going to come in,” said Olmstead. “This town tests liquor stores.”
Gary Bedsworth, a town planning commissioner, rose from the audience to support the plea of the liquor store owners. “This is not a dynamic town for business right now — one store is enough for a town this size and we have plenty right now.”
Councilor Richard Croy said the council shouldn’t try to control free enterprise and shouldn’t deny the application because of concerns about access to the highway.
“No matter what goes into that building, the traffic pattern will be the same. This is America, a free enterprise system. I don’t think it’s our right to step in front of competition or use that as a reason for denial.”
Councilor Mike Vogel recommended tabling the motion, to get more information about the possible drive-through window and traffic patterns.
However, attorney Wright said the council had only 30 days to make a recommendation — which means that after Dec. 15 the application would go to the state liquor board with or without the town’s recommendation.
Councilor John Wilson said the town ought to have 30 days from when it received an acceptable application as the plans submitted didn’t show the inside of the building or the traffic patterns.
Wright said the liquor board starts the clock from when it originally received the application not when the town approved it.
Wilson said, “The application isn’t very good, but we still have an obligation to express our opinion.”
But Wright said it probably wouldn’t matter even if the council opposed the application.
Wright said when the new Maverik gas station near Home Depot applied for a license to sell liquor, the town council opposed its approval.
Wright said he traveled to Phoenix to oppose granting the license.
“I spent the afternoon putting on a good show,” by presenting figures showing that Payson already had a lot of liquor outlets considering the population, “which they obviously didn’t listen to. It’s a rubber stamp hearing.”
In fact, under state law, the liquor board can only turn down the license application if it imposes an “undue financial burden” on other liquor stores.
However, Olmstead vowed to attend the hearing to argue that a new store in town would do just that.
The council voted to oppose the application on a 5-1 vote, with Croy in opposition and Mayor Kenny Evans absent.