By DAVID KRIER
After years of trying, Boscobel’s Piggly Wiggly store was granted a beer and liquor license during Monday night’s Common Council meeting. The vote was as close as it gets, 4-4, with Mayor Steve Wetter breaking the tie in favor of the city’s only grocery store.
“I’m going to vote in favor, and I think I’ve already stated my reasons,” Wetter said.
Most of the discussion was held during a meeting of the Protection and Welfare committee prior to the Council meeting.
City attorney John McNamee asked Piggly Wiggly manager Jeff Mara if the store planned on a separate section for beer, wine and liquor.
“Those plans are being formulated right now,” responded Mara, who said the store will be remodeled but not expanded in the coming months. “The liquor would be closer to the courtesy desk, which could be viewed at all times.”
Mara added that Piggly Wiggly has “zero tolerance” for selling alcohol to minors. “That’s how all twelve stores handle it,” he said.
Ald. Barb Bell asked if minors would be stocking alcohol.
“No,” responded Mara. “Most of the stocking is done by the vendors themselves, or managers, but it would not be a high school student.”
Mara added that the store will be doubling its number of surveillance cameras as part of the remodeling project, including adding some to the parking lot.
As for the need to sell alcohol, Mara said, “We’re just trying to remain competitive in a tough market.”
While the store’s Class A beer license was granted unanimously, the Class A liquor license was a different story.
“We’d like to respectfully request that you deny a Class A liquor license for Piggly Wiggly,” said Ray Saint, owner of Hometown Liquor, one of two liquor stores presently operating in the city of Boscobel.
Saint questioned the need for a liquor license, pointing out that the recent decision to grant a beer license to Kwik Trip was rationalized as adding jobs and $3.5 million to the city’s property tax base.
“It’s really not going to create any more jobs or tax base for the city,” said Saint. “In fact, we could lose jobs if one or more of the current liquor stores go out of business.”
“Is that a sound reason to deny?” Ald. Roger Brown asked McNamee.
“It’s a bit speculative to say you’re going to lose jobs if a liquor license is granted,” responded McNamee. “I don’t know. It’s not a real sound reason in my opinion.”
“It’s your responsibility to do what’s best for the community,” said Saint. “It will not result in any undue competition for Piggly Wiggly, which doesn’t have any anyway.”
Mayor Wetter said he wasn’t going to stand in the way of Piggly Wiggly getting a liquor license, adding that it was just another tool to help Boscobel grow.
“I don’t have a problem with it,” he said. “We’re here to see the community grow. I think it’s our job as elected officials to see the city grow. We’ve been lagging behind for years and years and years, and it’s time to stop. We have to drive on. We’re the only community around that doesn’t sell alcohol in its grocery stores. It’s just a convenience that people want.”
“What’s wrong with being different?” asked Jen Borzick, owner of the city’s other liquor store, Tall Tails Sports & Spirits.
“Someone’s got to be a leader, why not us?” said Saint.
“We’re not going to get bigger by selling liquor,” added Saint’s wife, Terri.
Alderman Milt Cashman said he has received about 10-15 calls from constituents opposed to Piggly Wiggly selling liquor.
“All the calls I’ve fielded people think beer was OK, but not liquor,” he said. “I’m between a rock and a hard place. I vote yes and the next election I’m voted out. I have no problem with the beer license, but liquor is different.”
Bell again suggested the matter be taken to referendum to “let the people decide.”
“If you rely on the results of a referendum you don’t know why,” replied McNamee. “It could be religious; you just don’t know.”
“If you deny we just want a reason in writing,” said Mara.
In the end that wasn’t necessary, as the permits were approved following Wetter’s tie-breaking vote. Voting in favor were Pete Huibregtse, Gary Kjos, Brown and Nancy Sanger. Opposed were Bell, Cashman, Sara Strang and Brenda Kalish.