WESTMINSTER — The Westminster Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Inc. will sell soda, but no longer bottle it after being sold to a Coke affiliate last week.
Seven people were laid off Wednesday as a result of the sale to Coca-Cola Enterprises North Inc. in Columbia, Howard County, a spokeswoman said.
The employees all worked in production, said Katherine E. Whiting, manager of public affairs. Sales, office and support staff were notaffected, she said.
The sale was finalized Tuesday, she said. Shewould not disclose the price.
Negotiations to buy the plant's twobuildings with about 40,000 square feet of space and 15 acres of land at the site still are under way, Whiting said. She would not comment further on the negotiations.
The plant at 525 Old Westminster Pike is a Coke franchise and sells Coke products in Carroll County and upper Baltimore County. It has about 3,000 accounts and last year sold about 1 million cases of soda, one of the former owners said.
Coca-Cola Enterprises is separate from the Coca-Cola Co. and is the world's largest bottler of Coke, said John H. Downs Jr., vice president of public affairs for Coca-Cola Enterprises in Atlanta.
The affiliate wanted to buy the Westminster franchise because the affiliate controls sales in the Baltimore area, and this purchase would expand itsterritory, he said.
In March, officials said it was possible the plant would close if the sale went through.
"Service will continue as before," Whiting said last week.
The plant was owned by FrankH. Libman of Westminster and his brother-in-law, Allan W. Roadcap ofManchester.
Both retired as of April 30, with Roadcap stepping down as president and Libman as executive vice president, Roadcap said.
As part of the sales contract, they agreed that all comments about the sale would come from Coca-Cola Enterprises, Roadcap said.
The plant had been in their family since 1920, when their father-in-law, W. G. Meredith, bought the franchise.
Employees were told of thepending sale March 1. At the time, the plant employed 58 people, 55 who worked full time, Libman said.
Last week, after the seven production employees were laid off, the plant employed about 38 people, said William R. Klinger, sales center manager.
From March to May, anumber of people retired and some quit, all unrelated to the sale, he said.
Klinger said he has been sales manager at the plant for about eight years. The Westminster resident has worked at the plant for19 years.
The sale is a good move for the plant, he said.
"We've got a lot of customers we're dedicated to," he said, adding that service to them will continue as usual.
The same sales network is in place, Klinger said.
The plant will distribute soda bottled in Baltimore and Silver Spring, Montgomery County, Whiting said.
The main function of the Westminster operation is selling and delivering Coke products. Only 35 percent of what the plant sold last year was bottled in Westminster, Libman said in March.
The plant had bottled 6 1/2- and 16-ounce returnable bottles of Coke and 16-ounce non-returnable bottles. It bought the cans and two-liter bottles it sold.
The Coca-Cola Co. owns 49 percent of the stock in Coca-Cola Enterprises, Downs said.