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Wal-Mart gets permit to sell packaged liquor

After nearly a two-year battle, Wal-Mart Supercenter was recently issued a permit by a state hearing officer to sell liquor in addition to beer and wine.
‘I’m sure it will hurt a lot of places, but unless they want to give it away, we will compete,’ said John Colin Sr., owner of Holiday Liquors in Corydon.
Responding to Wal-Mart’s successful appeal, Colin said independent outlets in Corydon are not planning an appeal.
In part, that’s because Wal-Mart has greater resources, including finances, to fight the battle, and other outlets in Indiana that have sought a license have already been successful.
‘It’s pretty clear that they (Wal-Mart) were going to fight it,’ he said. ‘They would continue to do whatever they had to do.
‘We just didn’t want it to happen to this town because of the liquor that could be stolen’ by minors who would have access to stock in Wal-Mart, Colin said.
(Persons under 21 are not allowed inside a package liquor store.)
First Capitol Liquors Inc. partners Tim Shewmaker and Mike Biddle, both of Corydon, already competes with Wal-Mart’s sale of beer and wine.
‘We are competitors just like other businesses; hopefully, we can deliver a product at a price people like,’ Shewmaker said.
He added: ‘The advantage we have is that you don’t have to fight the crowds at Wal-Mart. You can be in and out and gone before you can park and get inside Wal-Mart.’
Wal-Mart spokesman Dan Fogleman said yesterday from the Bentonville, Ark., home office, ‘We certainly are excited about expanding our service to customers who want beer, wine and now spirits. It’s all part of the one-stop shopping experience.’
Fogleman also said Wal-Mart is a family oriented retailer and has strict safeguards in place to ensure no problems with the operation of that department.
Wal-Mart is nearly ready to start an extensive remodeling and renovation of the Corydon store, so he is not sure when packaged liquors will be available.
Wal-Mart first applied for a liquor license in late 2004. At a hearing in February 2005, the Harrison County Alcohol Beverage Commission voted 2-2 on the issue, so the question then went to the state.
The following month, the Indiana ABC reviewed evidence and testimony from the hearing in Corydon and turned down Wal-Mart’s request.
Wal-Mart appealed. The case was assigned to a commission hearing judge, U-Jung Choe, who ruled on Feb. 13 that the denial ‘was not supported by substantial evidence, was arbitrary and capricious, and otherwise not in accordance with the law.’
Choe granted the permit to sell liquor.
(Wal-Mart already had a license to sell beer and wine.)
Wal-Mart’s Corydon manager, Fatorma Siafa, could not be reached for comment.
In testimony before the commission, which was reviewed by the judge, Siafa said the store wants to offer ‘one-stop’ shopping to customers who ask that Wal-Mart sell liquor in addition to beer and wine.
He said the store has had no problems with theft of alcoholic beverages, ‘due in part to its state-of-the-art security system … ‘
He added: ‘The applicant’s employees also deter theft by monitoring the aisle in which alcoholic beverage are shelved, and implementing the ’10-foot-rule,’ which requires employees to make eye contact and greet every customer within 10 feet.’
Corydon businessman Carl Duley, a member of the Harrison County ABC who, along with Marcell Schoen, voted against the permit in 2005, said, ‘As a board member, there is no way they should have approved that. Number one, there is no need for another outlet to have a liquor license.
‘We showed them there wasn’t a need for it.’
Duley predicts Wal-Mart will not be able to keep alcoholic beverages out of the hands of minors. ‘They can’t control it; they will not control it. It will get out of hand,’ Duley said.
He and several others testified before the state ABC in Indianapolis against a license being granted to Wal-Mart. Those included Corydon town manager Fred Cammack, Corydon resident Gordon Pendleton and local ABC board appointee Harold McBride of Corydon.
Cammack said, ‘My only interest was in trying to keep from putting more pressure on local businesses to compete.’
The judge found the following:
‘The applicant meets the qualifications to hold a permit … The permit is not being placed within 200 feet of a church or school … The permit is being placed in a commercial location … The applicant is of good moral character and of good repute in the community … The applicant’s store is similar to stores of competitors holding alcoholic beverage permits in Indiana … The applicant’s employees are extensively trained to avoid problems.’
She also found that Wal-Mart had demonstrated a need by submitting petitions containing 1,619 signatures with 96 percent in favor of the permit, another 486 signatures of customers showing 76 percent in favor of the permit, and 33 letters in support of the permit.
‘The weight of the evidence, which includes petitions submitted by the applicant, witnesses’ testimony concerning customer inquiries and the availability of Type 208-3 permits in Harrison County, indicates there is a need and desire in the Corydon community for the applicant to obtain the permit.
‘The applicant has submitted evidence that it is qualified to hold a Type 208-3 drug store permit,’ the judge said in her 15-page findings.