A glut of liquor stores in Elkridge is ruining the growing suburb's family-oriented reputation and sending the wrong message to children, residents say.
The five-member Howard County Liquor Board voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a liquor license for a fourth store in the area. The 2,987-square-foot Lyndwood Square Wine & Spirits will open in the new Lyndwood Square Shopping Center off Montgomery Road in Elkridge.
Within a three-mile radius from the junction of Meadowridge Road and the uncompleted Route 100, three liquor stores operate: Meadowridge Wine & Spirits, Lark Brown Liquors and Troy Farms Liquors, which has just been renovated.
The impending arrival of the new store has agitated nearby residents.
"There are just entirely too many," said Wendy Gaff, who has lived in Elkridge since 1983. "We don't need one on every street corner."
Jack Palmer Jr., who has lived in Elkridge for 43 years, said the area's image is being tarnished by the overabundance of liquor stores.
"I think it promotes drinking and alcoholism," he said. "I don't know if every person in Elkridge drinks, but I don't think so."
But others say that more stores mean easier access for #i consumers.
"It seems like a neighborhood convenience to me rather than a proliferation of liquor stores," said Karlen Murray. "And it's not like they're all lined up along one strip. You kind of have to know where they are to get to them."
A consultant's recent report supported the argument for more liquor stores.
James N. Angelo and Edward R. Krug Jr., who head Troy Farms Property LLC, hired a Baltimore consulting firm when they applied to the board last month for a liquor license for their 1,664-square-foot store -- Troy Farms -- off Meadowridge Road. The consulting firm concluded that there was an unmet annual demand of $437,618 in area alcohol sales.
"We anticipated that the community can support another liquor store," Krug said at the time.
But in an interview last month, Albert Robinson, owner of Meadowridge, which is less than a mile away, disputed the report's findings. He said industry figures show that a typical liquor store makes $425 per square foot a month. Because his store is about 2,000 square feet, Robinson said he should be taking in about $850,000 a month, but his best month in sales was about $45,000.
"Competition is great," he said. "It's great when competition is in a market that will bear the competition, but this area doesn't have the housing to support all of us."
In its June meeting, the board voted 3-0 to approve the Troy Farms license. Member Mary C. Lorsung recused herself from voting. C. Vernon Gray, who chairs the board, missed the meeting due to a prior engagement.
Gray said yesterday that if he had been present, he would have voted against the request.
"It was a half-mile away from another free-standing liquor store," Gray said, alluding to its proximity to Meadowridge. "I was disappointed that they approved it."
During the June hearing, Troy Farms opponents submitted a petition containing 295 names asking that the liquor license application be denied.
But no one showed up to voice any objections to Tuesday's hearing for Lyndwood Square, Gray said.
"The implication is that it was acceptable," he said.
But area residents complain that more liquor stores send the wrong message to children, who are already bombarded with glitzy alcohol ads featuring beer-snatching frogs and scantily clad models.
"As a parent, I worry about the children," Gaff said. "It only takes TTC one person to sell alcohol illegally and then you're just asking for trouble."
Pub Date: 7/11/97