Basalt council approves beer license for general store despite opposition from two members
The Willits General Store got approval from the Basalt Liquor Authority to sell beer again despite unexpected controversy.
The store’s application for a fermented malt beverage license was tabled last month for further consideration. At Tuesday’s meeting, the Basalt Town Council, acting as the liquor authority, approved the license 5-2.
The license allows the general store to sell beer but no other liquor. It’s all a matter of convenience, store representative Edwin Piper told the council. The Willits General Store is in the rare position of not selling beer itself or having a liquor store next door. It needs to sell beer for the convenience of its customers and to maintain a competitive edge, he said.
Willits General Store managing partner and longtime Basalt businessman Clay Crossland noted in a letter to the council that the general store once possessed a license to sell 3.2% beer but gave it up because the partners also owned an adjacent liquor store. That license was transferred to other owners, and the store moved.
“Had we not given it up, we would have been exempt from applying for a new license,” Crossland wrote. “So we are not ‘Johnny Come Lately’ to the party.“
He said the Willits General Store is “arguably the highest grossing convenience store in the Roaring Fork Valley and way ahead of 90% of all convenience stores.” But denying the ability to sell beer would render an undue competitive hardship, he continued.
The council’s concerns in a hearing on Dec. 14 centered on a perceived proliferation of liquor licenses in the town. There are currently liquor stores next to Whole Foods, next to El Jebel City Market and in the El Jebel Plaza. Council members wanted to be convinced of a “need” for another outlet for beer. Piper on Tuesday submitted petitions with signatures of 300 people supporting the store’s sale of beer.
There was only a brief discussion of issues Tuesday before the liquor authority’s vote to approve the license.
Councilman Glenn Drummond said he didn’t feel the town needed another outlet where commuters could grab a six-pack and slam a few while returning home.
“There’s plenty of options to get booze in this town,” Drummond said.
He voted against issuing the license along with Councilman Gary Tennenbaum, who didn’t comment.
Councilwoman Elyse Hottel said she was “on the fence” over the license. She voted to approve it but said she wants the council to look at the overall number of liquor licenses in town and consider capping them.
Mayor Bill Kane and council members David Knight, Bill Infante and Ryan Slack also voted to issue the license.
“I think the applicants met their legal burden here,” Knight said.
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