Construction of a new liquor store in the Enchanted Forest Shopping Center in Ellicott City is continuing despite a lawsuit that, if successful, could shut it down.
Attorney Thomas M. Meachum says the county Liquor Board erred when it granted a liquor license to the owners of Your Wine Shoppe on Dec. 20 after having denied them a license 18 months earlier.
Mr. Meachum has appealed the ruling to Howard County Circuit Court on behalf of his clients, Jason's Liquors and the Spirit Shop, which operate on opposite sides of U.S. 40 about one mile east of the Enchanted Forest Shopping Center.
"My clients believe that the board was presented essentially the same evidence" at both hearings, Mr. Meachum said.
"There was no reason to change the decision, and by law, they can't change the decision without a substantial change," Mr. Meachum said. "There has been no substantial change since the first hearing."
David A. Carney, the attorney representing Your Wine Shoppe, said the Liquor Board acted correctly in granting his clients a license, and they are going ahead with plans to open Your Wine Shoppe within a month.
"My clients started construction well before the appeal" and will continue to complete the construction, Mr. Carney said.
Mr. Meachum says the owners of Your Wine Shoppe are "proceeding at their own risk. We made it clear we were considering an appeal. They knew how seriously we take this case."
Although the appeal was filed Jan. 19, attorneys doubt it will be put on the Circuit Court docket before early summer. By that time, Your Wine Shoppe could be a well-established part of the shopping center.
"That makes no difference," Mr. Meachum said. "A judge cannot ignore the law." If the appellants win, Your Wine Shoppe would have to close, he said.
The attorneys say there have been few appeals of Liquor Board decisions in the past decade and that none has been successful.
The owners of Your Wine Shoppe first sought a liquor license Feb. 13, 1992. The board voted 4-1 on May 11, 1992, to deny it on grounds that a liquor store was not needed as a public convenience. At the time the license was denied, the Enchanted Forest Shopping Center was still being built.
A year and a half later when the board voted 5-0 to grant the license, the board noted the opening of the shopping center and said buyer shopping habits had changed. A liquor store is needed there to accommodate the public, the board said.
"There is only one Class A-1 package goods store on the north side of Route 40 between Route 29 on the east and the junction of Route 40 and Interstate 70 on the west," the board said in its Dec. 20 ruling.
Mr. Meachum was unimpressed. He says only one store existed in the neighborhood in May 1992 when the board denied the first license application and therefore there is no change. Board members "knew the shopping center would open and heard testimony as to the amount of business it would generate," he said.