The Janesville City Council approved a liquor license for a new Kwik Trip on Humes Road against the recommendation of the city’s alcohol license committee, leading one council member to question the committee’s purpose.
Monday’s vote to approve the license was split 4-3 with council members Jim Farrell, Susan Johnson and Paul Williams opposed.
About a week ago, the city’s Alcohol License Advisory Committee objected to giving the convenience store chain a license. Committee members said the area has too many liquor stores already, and the city already has exceeded its class A liquor license quota. In addition, building plans for the convenience store have not yet been approved, they said.
Council member Paul Benson said he thought the committee made good points, but he disagreed that they were significant enough to deny the license.
The new Kwik Trip would be a positive addition to the city, Benson said. It would add $6 million to the tax rolls and provide 35 to 40 jobs, 12 to 14 of them full time, he said.
The store also would have ID scanners to verify buyers of alcohol are 21 or older, Benson said.
The committee has pressed stores to get such scanners to prevent alcohol sales to underage buyers.
Benson said he did not think concerns about the store’s location were valid because the area is a dense, commercial corridor where businesses, including liquor stores, are expected.
City ordinance allows the council to approve liquor licenses over the quota if the licenses support new business or redevelopment. The Kwik Trip project redevelops a vacant lot, Benson said.
Benson also echoed earlier opinions from city staff that Kwik Trip has worked well with the city and has not had issues at its other stores.
Williams, who objected to the license at the committee and council levels, said denying the license was not about whether a company is good or bad at business.
He said he is concerned that the council continues to exceed its class A license quota.
“Selling alcohol is a privilege, not a right,” Williams said.
He reiterated the concern that new liquor stores will put existing liquor stores out of business and questioned whether the licensing committee should continue to exist if the council keeps disregarding its recommendations.
Before the council voted, Williams suggested an amendment that would bar Kwik Trip from selling single cans of alcohol, hosting tasting events, having a door connecting the gas station and liquor store and from advertising alcohol outside.
The amendment did not get support from the entire council.
Council member Doug Marklein addressed several points made by Williams and the committee.
Marklein said the council could be accused of protectionism if it denied a license to a store out of concern for other businesses.
There is no guarantee any business will survive under any circumstances, Marklein said, and it is not the council’s job to worry about that when approving licenses.
Johnson and Farrell shared Williams’ concerns. Johnson said she did not think it was good for the community’s health and well-being to have a cluster of liquor stores in one area.
Council President Sue Conley said she did not think the cluster argument was valid, considering the area is a retail corridor that has a cluster of businesses similar to entertainment clusters downtown.