The free market as we knew it barely exists anymore. When stores were told to shut down in March/April, most mom and pop businesses complied while corporate big box stores and chains mopped up behind them. Subsidizing big business on the federal, state, and local level results in the government choosing winners and losers.
The grass roots effort to place a liquor store referendum on the ballot has resulted in those same people being shut out of the process. I voted for the citizens to decide on this on the ballot, but against the actual referendum. Not because I am opposed to liquor stores, but because I knew there would be no advantage to the City of East Ridge to have this new type of business. Any tax dollars added to the City’s coffers would easily evaporate and never show up on the bottom line of the books or in the form of fresh asphalt on our streets. There could actually be a net loss to the City once all of this red tape is worked out and lawsuits start being thrown around by local and out of town proprietors making their case for why they should or should not be allowed to participate in the “free market”.
For the City to dictate in such detail what these liquor stores will look like and will be located tells me that maybe there is an effort to thwart such a possibility by regulating the heck out of it. Is their next step to dictate the color scheme and architectural design of each building? Why require this to be a new building? Wouldn’t it be better for someone to invest millions into an old building/fireworks store rather than reinvent the wheel. If Tim Kelly can do it for Southern Motor Sports, then why handicap a legitimate developer by putting on so many restrictions? If they can dictate this much about liquor stores, then what’s to stop them from ordaining every type of future development.
How is the lottery to be set up? Can anyone enter the lottery? Can someone win the lottery and then decided not to ever build a liquor store thus blocking one or both of the two locations? Do you have to put down earnest money to enter the lottery, or is it first come first serve with the winner being able to sell their rights or assume partial ownership in the liquor store for their luck of the draw? This is where things get really complicated and where the City has exposure to what may be legal challenges.
The citizens or our city voted on this referendum to allow liquor stores and it most likely came with a lot of assumptions by East Ridge citizens that the free market would decide how this would pan out. At what point do the efforts of the grass roots efforts and the ultimate vote of thousands of people result in those efforts being snuffed out by city leaders and lawyers paid by the hour? I say, minimize the restrictions like any other development and see where the chips fall. The free market will determine winners and losers without a dime of City money going to waste on needless regulations and eminent litigation.
_ Robert Maner