Liquor Board decision might be appealed

December 23, 1993|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff Writer

The county Liquor Board's unanimous decision Monday to reverse itself and allow a liquor store to open in the Enchanted Forest Shopping Center in Ellicott City might be appealed to the Circuit Court.

Thomas M. Meachum, attorney for a group of four liquor store owners along U.S. 40 that opposed the new store, said he has begun talking with his clients about the possibility of an appeal within 10 days.

Mr. Meachum and David A. Carney, attorney for Your Wine Shoppe Inc., the store planning to open in the shopping center, ** had presented closing arguments to the Liquor Board Oct. 14 that practically guaranteed an appeal, no matter what the County Council, sitting as the Liquor Board, decided.

Mr. Carney said at that time that the board had made "an error of law" in May 1991 when it voted 4-1 to deny a license to Your Wine Shoppe, saying the license was not needed to accommodate the public.

Mr. Meachum argued that the board would make a legal error if it reversed that decision. He filed a "memorandum of law" with the board, saying "there has to be substantial change" in circumstances for the board to reconsider an application.

Mr. Meachum said there had been virtually no change since the first request.

The board made no mention of either argument in Monday's 13-page decision and order granting a license to Your Wine Shoppe Inc.

In voting 5-0 to grant the license, members listed eight "findings of fact" in support of the application, three of which related to the need to accommodate the public.

To get a license, applicants must prove that a proposed liquor store is necessary to accommodate the public, that the applicants are "fit and proper persons" to hold a license and that the granting of the license would not unduly disturb the peace and safety of the neighborhood

The board said there was only one package goods store on the north side of U.S. 40 between U.S. 29 and Interstate 70 and that Enchanted Forest Shopping Center patrons wanted the convenience of having a liquor store in the center.

The board also noted that on the same night the Enchanted Forest case began, the board heard and granted a request from a liquor store on the other side of U.S. 40 to expand its retail floor space.

The owner of the other store, Pine Orchard Liquors, is a member of the group opposing Your Wine Shoppe, Inc.

During three days of hearings in September and October, the board heard witnesses draw opposite conclusions about whether a new store was needed to accommodate the area's population growth.

John R. Sherwood III, an economic consultant for Your Wine Shoppe, argued that "per capita consumption [of alcohol] is down, but the market is up because of the population increase." He said a new store would not damage competing businesses.

Walter Dulaney, general manager of Pine Orchard Liquors, took the opposite tack, saying an increase in population had not offset flat sales.

"There is no need for a liquor store at this location," he told the board.

Mr. Meachum, meanwhile, had told the board that the fact that Your Wine Shoppe made a better case the second time around tTC was not a reason for granting a license.

"The fact that [they] made a different argument is not a reason. There is no evidence of any difference between then and now," he said.

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