By Clint Confehr
Senior Staff Writer
CHAPEL HILL - Aldermen decided this week to let the market decide how many liquor stores will be right for this north Marshall County town.
Voters here supported a referendum 348 to 192 on Nov. 6 to permit state licensure of wine and spirits shops. Within a week, the town board made several adjustments to the ordinance on how permits would be issued.
A limit of two was contemplated, but before the board could meet on Monday, three applicants had paid the $250 fee to file their request for a state permit. Two others say they want a store, but hadn't paid the fee.
"How do we select the applicants?" Town Administrator Mike Hatten asked the board, adding that a lottery system might be used. "Should the board decide?"
At least one groan was heard from the board.
"Some might put in an application without the ability to do it," Hatten continued. "Is it fair to let any Moe and Joe to come in?"
Without a limit on the number of stores, Alderman Tom Lawrence commented, "It'll be like lining up at Walmart on Black Friday."
Hatten said, "The market is going to decide" how many stores would survive financially. "Let's take the number out. That puts the pressure on them."
Mayor Carl Cooper asked City Attorney Todd Moore about limiting the number of stores and was told, "The larger cities don't have a numerical limit." Moore lives in Franklin where permits are allowed based on population. Moore added that a liquor store must be in the appropriate business zones.
Alderman Marion Joyce asked about a distance separating a liquor store from churches, schools and parks. The board endorsed using the distance required for beer sales. It's 200 feet between buildings and 200 feet from the park property line.
The town will receive applications and forward them to the state's Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission. The town is to pay for a background check of the applicants by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
The board also eliminated a requirement that the permit holder be a resident of the town or county.
The application fee was increased by the board on Monday. It was $250. Now it's $250 plus the cost of the TBI background check.