Commonwealth Journal

Local News

January 12, 2013

Mayor miffed over liquor licenses

(Continued)

Somerset —

However, none of the facilities appeared ready to pump the kind of money into the local economy that Liquor World CEO Wesley Morgan was prepared to put forward. Morgan’s plan would have spent millions to purchase and remodel the North Plaza Shopping Center on North U.S. 27 and potentially bring in more lucrative businesses.
This is clearly the kind of deal that city officials were counting on, as Girdler noted that a different licensing selection by the state would have meant a difference of 50 to 100 new jobs and $4 million to $6 million in financial investments, based on information he was provided. That’s a financial boost Girdler doesn’t necessarily expect to see realized under those businesses that did receive quota licenses.
“This whole issue (of alcohol sales) was about job creation and investment,” said Girdler. “If not for job creation and new investments, then what did we do it for? The state did not take that into consideration at all.”
Girdler said that state ABC personnel didn’t spend sufficient hours discussing with city officials what was in Somerset, meeting for only a brief window of time with Bradley.
“At no time did they discuss their decisions with the City of Somerset,” said Girdler. “This is supposed to be a partnership, as it says in the ordinance and in state law. ... When the state clearly ignores the economic impact and overall impact (their decisions would have on Somerset’s needs), I think we need to at least have them address it with us.”
Girdler said that the city will “possibly be pursuing other avenues” in addition to the five stores that received licenses “in order to maximize economic growth.”
He clarified that his position reflects “nothing against those who were selected, but we think there should be additional package stores approved because (the state) didn’t deal with the impact of job creation and $6 million of investment in Somerset.” He added that the five licensees “followed procedure, you can’t fault them at all,” and that the city would “work with them in any way possible” toward their success.

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