A liquor license request for a proposed Kwik Trip store on North Wright Road is on ice after some on the Janesville City Council voiced misgivings over more liquor retailers being added in the city.
The council on Monday tabled further discussion of whether it would grant a liquor license to Kwik Trip for a proposed gas station and convenience store at 1030 N. Wright Road. Kwik Trip is at least a year off from breaking ground on the station.
It wasn’t clear Monday what Kwik Trip’s next move might be, but the La Crosse-based company will have to wait to learn whether the city council has an appetite for more liquor retailers.
Kwik Trip officials have said part of the business plan for building the $6 million store, likely sometime in 2023, would be running liquor sales at the location. The company is seeking a liquor license now as it works to buy the property for the prospective store.
The council moved to halt discussion of the issue after the council came to a 3-3 deadlock on council member Paul Williams’ proposal to deny a liquor license.
Williams on Monday moved to follow the recommendation of the city’s Alcohol License Advisory Committee, which advised not granting Kwik Trip the liquor license it seeks.
Williams, also a member of the ALAC, questioned whether it would be healthy for Janesville to have another liquor seller along or near a 2-mile stretch of East Milwaukee Street that already contains two liquor stores and a tavern.
The ALAC recommended against a liquor license in part because some members said Kwik Trip’s plans to build the new store was a few years down the road.
City rules allow a new business to hold a liquor license without an operational business for a maximum of 510 days (about 17 months), a period that includes three individual 90-day extensions.
Since the ALAC meeting, Kwik Trip officials have told the city they are willing to move up the project timeline and possibly complete it by 2022, according to a city memo.
Williams said he thinks Janesville is saturated with too many liquor sellers for its own good. He said Monday that he thinks “one liquor store for every 2,300 people is too many” when it comes to “ensuring the safety of the community.”
“Do we want to have anywhere and everywhere where you can buy alcohol? I say no,” Williams said. The city council last year voted to lift a cap on Class A retail liquor licenses.
Michael Jackson, one of three new council members elected last month, voted with Williams in opposing the license, as did Susan Johnson. She said she was worried about beer cans, liquor bottles and other litter piling up along a public-use trail area and health clinic property, both of which are hundreds of feet away from the proposed Kwik Trip site.
Jackson, a retired minister who says he also used to run an ambulance service, said he has misgivings about expanding alcohol sales in Janesville.
The other new council members, Dave Marshick and Heather Miller, voted with council Vice President Paul Benson against Williams’ move to deny the license. Benson then moved to table the discussion.
The 3-3 deadlock and subsequent vote to table came after council President Doug Marklein opted to sit out the discussion. He said he was abstaining because he owns the building that houses a Stop-N-Go on East Milwaukee Street that is across Wright Road and Milwaukee Street from the proposed Kwik Trip.
Kwik Trip owns and operates Stop-N-Go stores and leases the building from Marklein, he said.
City staff in a memo advised the council to disregard the ALAC recommendation and approve the license request.
On Monday, city Economic Development Director Gale Price said Kwik Trip’s proposal for a store would fulfill a “needed” service in a “2-square-mile” area of the city that is “underserved” by food retailers.
Kwik Trip is proposing the Wright Road store as it builds at a site about a mile west on East Milwaukee Street at the location of the former Maurer’s Market grocery store.
The city council approved a liquor license for that Kwik Trip in November 2020, according to city records.
Marshick and Miller said they think Kwik Trip’s development would add retail competition to the market, not necessarily more alcohol.
Benson said he is concerned a hang-up in a vote on the liquor license for Kwik Trip might hamper the ability of the parcel’s current owner, Dick Stockwell, to sell the land and see it developed for commercial use.