Granby Liquor License Decision Pushed to January
Mum’s the word from Granby Town Board members until Jan. 12, 2010, regarding whether the town will grant a license for a liquor store proposed near City Market.After three hours of sometimes impassioned testimony and public comment Tuesday night, Granby trustees, sitting as the Granby Liquor Licensing Authority, voted to postpone their decision on the license.About 50 citizens watched as the applicant, Granby Marketplace Liquors LLC, presented its case and opponents of the store, primarily a coalition of downtown Granby businesses, argued that the town’s liquor needs are already being met.Trustees who supported delaying the vote until the January meeting cited the fact that organized opponents of the store missed the deadline for submitting petitions to be included in the materials to be considered at the hearing.The petitions, which were submitted last Friday morning, Dec. 4, rather than by the town clerk-imposed Monday, Nov. 30 deadline were entered into the record nevertheless.Town Clerk Deb Hess said Thursday that she counted 297 signatures she verified as from individuals living in town, though she said she did not try to verify the ages of petition-signers.”I personally think we should continue this,” said Trustee Ken Coatney, who said he had not had sufficient time to examine the petitions.Trustee Deb Shaw echoed that sentiment and made the motion to continue the hearing.”If we’re going to hedge, it’s going to come back to bite us,” said Mayor Jynnifer Pierro.As the Liquor Licensing Authority, trustees act in a quasi-judicial capacity and as such are not permitted to discuss the issue – either among themselves or with anyone else – until after the vote, Town Attorney Scotty Krob instructed the trustees.Adam Stapen, legal counsel for the applicant, objected strenuously to the postponement, saying the applicant had met all his burdens and their due process rights were being violated by the delay. Moreover, he said because the town was not following its own policies and procedures by making an exception to the deadline, its decision was “arbitrary and capricious.””It’s very disappointing to me,” Kirk Arnold, a downtown business owner and former Granby trustee, said to trustees about delaying the vote. “For this person (the applicant) to sit there and wait, isn’t fair.””I don’t know how we’re going to do this a month from now,” said Trustee Greg Guthridge.
Applicant Andrew Buettner of Denver, who listed himself as owner/manager of Granby Marketplace Liquors LLC on his license application, began his case with a presentation by Max Scott, CEO of Oedipus Inc. of Lafayette. Oedipus specializes in conducting surveys for businesses seeking public licenses.Scott said a scientific, statistically valid survey of Granby residents who consume liquor and are of legal age indicated that 65 percent of respondents favor granting the license and want the store. When non-qualifying answers are deleted from the results, he said that percentage rises to 75 percent.”People typically want to be able to buy alcohol where they shop at a primary grocery store,” he said.He said his research indicates that the average City Market has 35,000 shopper visits per week and that those with gas islands, such as Granby, have even more. In addition, he said, the most recent Colorado Department of Transportation traffic count on U.S. 40 in Granby shows 9,000 trips/day.Attorney Richard Newton of Granby – representing the Downtown Granby Business Association, which opposes granting the license – took issue with those numbers during his cross-examination of Scott, who could not say when the most recent CDOT traffic count had been conducted nor give shopper figures specific to the Granby City Market.As for the “over-the-counter” petitions submitted by opponents of the store, “There are several problems with those,” Scott said.Newton, again on cross-examination, said no statute mandates criteria for petitions in liquor licensing cases, a legal view later echoed by Krob. Scott, who said he has conducted surveys in about 6,000 of these cases, said such requirements have been established by Colorado case law.
“I’m starting to think about what I want to do long-term,” Buettner said of his desire to own a liquor store here.The commercial real estate broker and Colorado native described himself as an outdoor enthusiast and former Eskimo Ski Club member who spends “every minute of my free time heading to the mountains. … It’s my ultimate goal to move up here full-time and be part of the community.”He said he chose that location because City Market is a recognized draw for shoppers and has a sound location. As for whether another liquor store is needed in the Granby market, Buettner said, “I believe that there is a need for a larger variety.” He also said he does not believe the needs of the traveling public are being adequately served.His store, which he said he hopes to open in March or April, would be 3,500 square feet and employ two full-time workers and three to four part-time. Hours would be 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday, he said.
After the applicant’s one-hour presentation, Newton presented a synopsis of the opposition case.”He (Buettner) intends to rely on the traveling public to support his store,” Newton said. “That’s simply not viable.”He also said opinions of petitioners from out of town should be considered, that it is appropriate to consider the effect of the new store on competing outlets, that convenience is not a factor that legally can be considered and, most importantly, that the burden lies on the applicant to demonstrate that the needs of the community are not being met and that the liquor consumers of legal age within the community desire the store.The applicant, he asserted, has not met those burdens. Plus, he said, this “is not a free market issue” in light of the specific, statutory requirements applicants must meet and the fact that liquor stores are a regulated marketplace.
After an hour of public comment, Krob advised trustees about what he called “relevant considerations.”He said in order to grant the license, they must determine that the neighborhood’s needs are not being met and that the majority of potential liquor consumers of legal age desire the store. That, he said, is all the applicant must demonstrate.The opposition, he said, can present evidence that overrides such a showing of need and desire.He said a variety of other factors may be considered, including proximity, convenience, and selection. Competition, however, may not be considered.”Whether the new license will jeopardize an existing liquor store’s business is not a factor you can consider,” he said.
Granby “holds itself out to the public as being the service center of the county,” Attorney Stapen said in closing. The existing outlets are “inadequate” to fill that need. “The opposition is based on competition, pure and simple.””Here’s the bottom line – they have the burden,” said Newton in closing. They have not met that burden, he said, nor have they supported their assertions that growth is creating the need for a new liquor store. “This application is ill-timed.”Need and convenience are not the same thing, said Patrick Brower, a paid consultant for the downtown coalition. “We don’t need another liquor store.”
When the hearing was opened up to public comment, 19 people addressed the trustees. Of those, 15 spoke against the store and four in favor of it. Of the 15 who spoke against it, at least 10 were either downtown Granby business owners, relatives of owners or are employed at one of the three existing liquor stores in the area (two in town, one in the county).Some comments:”There’s no way anybody’s going to compete against Apple Jack Liquor. … I have no problem being defined as parochial if that means we’re going to have high standards.” – Robert Anderson, owner, R&J Liquor, Granby”In recent years, we have enjoyed some prosperity. … We’re not growing right now; we’re shrinking. … All it will do is impact our buying power.” – Gary Jahn, owner, Spirits ‘N Things liquor store, Granby”We’ve been living with us vs. them. … It’s about commerce. … We shouldn’t really cherry-pick who does business here.” Kirk Arnold, downtown business owner and former Granby trustee”We are in a downswing. This is not the proper time.” – Pete Gallo, Granby downtown business owner”I don’t get (enough) variety. … I would like that store. … We need more options.” – Holly Wood, Granby shopper. “A lot of people I know want this store. … I shop (for liquor) in Fraser when I can because they have a better selection.””When is enough enough?” – Ken Anderson, Granby downtown business owner”It’s not just the locals that we do value.” – Kim Cautrell, manager R&J Liquor, Granby. “Without that store, we die. … If we lose this store, what are we going to do?” – Brian Rygwalski, manager, Spirits ‘N Things, Granby”That’s the breaks of business. … If (Granby) … becomes not conducive to new business, we will never grow. … I do not believe it is this board’s responsibility to legislate competition in Granby.” – John Sanderson, Granby-area resident
Trustee Greg Mordini said he noticed a preponderance of “us vs. them” comments and noted that the area in question is part of Granby. “I am the only board member who lives ‘out there’,” he said. “Based on what I’ve seen,” the town’s needs are not being met.Mordini also said he finds it ironic that the “same faces” who decried potential government regulation of tattoo parlors and pawn shops downtown were now back in front of the trustees. “And now we want government legislation.””I feel the needs of Granby are being served – it’s in the numbers,” said Trustee Greg Guthridge.”I want to let the best business win,” said Trustee Coatney. “But I also believe in supporting the downtown core.””Do you have to be born on Main Street to open a business in town?” Mayor Jynnifer Pierro asked. She said attracting new businesses to town is particularly important during a slow economy. It is bad timing only for competitors, she said. “It’s part of business.””I thought I knew what I wanted to do,” said Trustee Elaine Henrekin, who said after hearing from her friends and neighbors she wasn’t so sure. “I believe in free enterprise.””I do feel our needs are being met,” Trustee Deborah Shaw said.
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Granby trustees are expected to announce the town’s new police chief at Tuesday’s board meeting.