City opens way for package stores
Wednesday, June 19, 2013 1:05 AM
An ordinance that would allow for the sale of wine and liquor in the city was adopted Tuesday night by the Philadelphia Mayor and Board of Aldermen, opening the way for package liquor stores by fall.
The ordinance, adopted in a unanimous decision, will allow for the sale of wine and liquor of more than 5 percent alcohol by weight in restaurants and package stores.
The board also voted to petition the State Department of Revenue to allow liquor and wine to be sold in restaurants and other such establishments from 10 a.m. to midnight on Sundays.
At a special meeting last week, Russell Hanna, with Mississippi Alcoholic Beverage Control (MABC), gave the board an overview of the state's alcohol laws, outlining exactly how the board could regulate sales.
He told the Mayor and Board of Aldermen that they had only one decision to make: whether alcohol sales could be restricted to restaurants or allow sales also in package stores, etc.
The ordinance will take effect in 30 days after a certified copy is received by the state Department of Revenue, Robert Thomas, city attorney, said.
The department, which oversees the ABC, will begin accepting applications for permits after the 30 days.
Hanna told aldermen last week that it would take another four to six weeks before a permit would be approved.
"There will be no liquor sales before the Neshoba County Fair," he said.
According to Hanna, unrestricted sales do not mean just package stores. There are about 25 different permits that would be available.
This includes permits for restaurants, package stores, wholesale businesses, catering businesses, temporary businesses and private clubs.
Anyone seeking a permit must also meet certain criteria set by the state.
"There will be an extensive background check for anyone seeking a license," Hanna said.
Applicants must not be convicted felons. If there are any outstanding fines, or income taxes, they must be paid before the application can be approved, he said.
Employees of these businesses are also subject to checks, he added.
Hanna noted that applicants must have their businesses ready to be stocked as soon as their applications are approved.
He also warned that after the waiting period, Philadelphia would see a spike in the number of package stores.
"There will be more than you need," he said, noting that by the third year the number of new permits typically taper off. "In the end there will probably be three [package stores] here."
Rules on where a package store can be located depend on whether the building is in a commercial or residential area.
In commercial areas, package stores must be at least 100 feet from churches, schools, etc. The range increases to 400 feet for residential areas.
Hanna noted that 100 feet was not far, "just across the street," he noted.
Package stores must also be a separate business. A business owner cannot just create a section in their store for liquor; it must be in its own facility.
"The only way to get from one business to the other is through the front door, no exceptions," Hanna said.
Once a package store opens, it must follow certain rules.
Package stores can only sell alcoholic beverages, corkscrews, wine glasses and mixers. They also cannot sell liquor on Sunday or on Christmas Day.
Restaurants must make 25 percent of their income from food sales, no less. They must also provide a copy of their menu to the state.
The reason for this, Hanna said, is that Mississippi does not have any bars, i.e. places where drinks are the sole source of income.
Employees at package stores must be 21-years-old. At restaurants, employees must be 21 to serve alcoholic drinks.
There are also laws for the other available permits, including wholesale businesses, which can sell to any package store or restaurant.
Private clubs, which opened before 1966, could apply for a permit to serve liquor to members only.
In addition, a temporary permit - which is only good for one day - would also be available for a business or organization to host an event such as a wine tasting, Hanna said.
The reason for the numerous rules is because the state is the wholesaler for all liquor in the state, Hanna said.
"Every drop of whiskey is ordered from the state," he said, noting the state ABC has 24 agents statewide and Philadelphia will have two.
The sale of alcohol is a big moneymaker for the state, Hanna said.
"The state makes over $100 million a year and that number has never went down," he said, noting that it didn't drop in the wake of Hurricane Katrina which shut down many casinos on the Gulf Coast.
In the recent municipal election, residents overwhelmingly approved the legal sale of alcoholic liquors in the city with nearly 75 percent of the vote.
Earlier this year, the Mayor and Board of Aldermen ordered the referendum on the issue of whether or not the sale, distribution and possession of alcoholic liquor and wines of more than 5 percent alcohol by weight shall be permitted in Philadelphia.
During the election voters marked: "For the legal sale of alcoholic liquors" or "Against the legal sale of alcoholic liquors."
Officials have said that the sale of wine and liquor would attract new business and help existing ones in the city.
The effort to bring new retail opportunities, particularly restaurants, to Philadelphia stemmed from a charrette (pronounced shuh-ret) held here in early 2010.
An estimated $12.3 million in sit-down restaurant business leaves Philadelphia annually.