Commonwealth Journal

Local News

January 11, 2014

Liquor World setting its sights on Burnside

Somerset — Coming soon to Burnside ... Liquor World?

Maybe. If Wesley Morgan has anything to say about it, yes indeed.

Liquor World, the high-volume alcohol retailer based in Richmond, Ky., is looking to grab one of two available quota licenses made available to the City of Burnside by the Kentucky Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC).

“We’ve been working on it for quite a few months,” said Morgan, the CEO of Liquor World. “We have an option on the property next to (the old Reno’s Roadhouse building).”

However, Liquor World is a little more newsworthy than most other potential applicants because of their central role in an ongoing legal controversy several miles up U.S. 27.

The City of Somerset was counting on Liquor World being a part of their community as well. Morgan had designs on making a $5 million investment to purchase the North Plaza Shopping Center on North U.S. 27 (currently home to Big Lots and Peddler’s Mall) and revitalize it, possibly even bringing in a major chain restaurant to be part of the commercial center. Morgan said at the time that it would have employed between 15 and 25 employees and would likely have been about 20,000 square feet in size.

Somerset even produced a detailed economic plan, showing the impact liquor stores — and Liquor World in particular — could have in terms of local revenue generated. Instead, the state ABC picked a number of smaller liquor retailers to receive the town’s available quota licenses last January, and denied Liquor World’s application. This prompted legal action by the City of Somerset — first to try and convince the ABC to grant more licenses, then simply to make the agency clarify how they arrive at their decisions.

It isn’t the first run-in that Liquor World has had with the state ABC office. Liquor World had plans to open an 11,000-square-foot store in Corbin, Ky. — which went “wet” not long before Somerset did in 2012 — but were turned down for one of three quota licenses. After being denied a license to open a store in Corbin, Morgan filed a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the issuing of the retail liquor package licenses in that community, but it was dismissed in December 2012 in Franklin Circuit Court, as the judge said that Morgan lacked standing.

Last January, when Liquor World was turned down for a license in Somerset, Morgan said at the time that his store was “probably penalized because we sued the ABC over Corbin.”

Nevertheless, Liquor World is trying again in Pulaski County, this time in Burnside. The store, to be located in the Stonebrook Pavilion on South U.S. 27, would be approximately 9,600 square feet in size. That’s smaller than the Richmond location (which is about 27,000 square feet), but larger than the 4,000-square-foot express location in Manchester, Ky.

Unlike the North Plaza location, Liquor World wouldn’t have plans to bring along a chain restaurant in a special deal, though Morgan did say it wouldn’t be unexpected for someone to want to move into the Reno’s building next door to be near to the liquor retailer.

“You do your thing, you’re sure to bring other businesses to the same shopping center,” he said.

It’s not merely a reaction to not being able to open in Somerset, however; Morgan was eyeing the potential of Burnside long before “the only town on Lake Cumberland” went “wet” via a local option election last October.

“That was always our plan: to put one on the south side (of Pulaski County) and one on the north side,” said Morgan. “We may get the one on the south side before the north, but eventually, we’ll get one on the north too.”

That’s not necessarily a statement that demonstrates faith in Somerset’s ability to eventually wrangle an extra license or two out of the ABC, but, according to Morgan, more an indicator of economic survival-of-the-fittest philosophy in practice.

“We believe that once we get down there in Burnside, we can cause some of the smaller ones not to survive,” said Morgan. “We are a very, very competitive store ... and we’ve had a following of people (at the Richmond store) from Pulaski County for years and years.”

That means that the Burnside Liquor World would have to force out at least one of the existing holders of a quota license in Somerset and take their place. The two smallest-volume sellers with a retail package liquor license — which allows the sale of wine and distilled spirits in retail stores; beer and malt beverage licenses are unlimited in availability — are two national pharmacy chains, Rite-Aid and Walgreens, that were around long before Somerset went “wet.”

Likewise, Wildcat Beer, Wine & Spirits was, even according to Somerset officials, more in line with the type of store size for which they were hoping. The smaller stores, the ones that didn’t represent the kind of economic impact Somerset sought, were First Stop Party Supply and Apple’s Wine & Spirits. However, the latter of those two recently made a move out of their first home in the Somerset Mall and into a much larger facility on South U.S. 27 — near the border with Burnside around the intersection with the Ky. 914 bypass.

Before Liquor World can set its sights on eliminating the competition, however, it first has to secure a license from the state. Applicants have 30 days from the time of publication in the Commonwealth Journal of a notice from the state announcing the availability of Burnside’s two quota licenses. That announcement was received this week and will be published in Tuesday’s edition, at which point applications may start being submitted.

Morgan guessed that he should know more about his fate in Burnside by March 1, and would be prepared to start construction immediately, with the store likely to be ready to open by the beginning of June.

As it was with Somerset, it will be up to the state ABC’s discretion as to which applicants are chosen, rather than just Burnside’s.

Morgan didn’t wish to say much about his store’s chances of being awarded a license to do business in Burnside. However, he did say that “if the ABC turns us down for a license based on our economic impact in Burnside, then there is more to the story than just denying a particular applicant or license, because we know we have the best economic impact plan.”


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