Following three tie-breaking votes cast by Mayor Anissa Welch, the City of Milton Common Council approved Oct. 6 a “change of premise” request and an application for a class A liquor license, allowing intoxicating beverages such as hard liquor to be sold for consumption off premises, for Casey's General Store.
Council voted on three actions, the first of which revolved around a change of premise request made by Casey’s, 464 John Paul Road.
City Administrator Al Hulick clarified for members of council that the change of premise request was different from the application submitted by the company for a class A liquor license, which was discussed and tabled by council at a meeting held Sept. 15.
The company already has a class A malt liquor license, which, before the change of premise request was approved, allowed the company to sell beer from within the store. An approved change in premise request would apply to that existing license, Hulick said, and allow the company to provide a curbside pickup option to its customers by bringing beer, sold through an app, from the store to cars waiting in the parking lot.
In a second action, council voted against a motion to deny issuing Casey’s a class A license that would allow the store to sell other types of liquor besides beer. The measure to deny the license failed after the mayor cast a tie-breaking vote against the denial.
A third motion, to approve the class A liquor license, carried after the mayor cast a third tie-breaking vote.
Change of premise vote
During discussion held before the first vote was taken, granting the change of premise, Councilmember Lynda Clark voiced her concern about allowing people to drive up to the store and have employees bring them beer.
She asked about parking, wondering where those waiting to receive their beer might go.
Hulick said it was his understanding that they would park in a parking stall and wait.
“I don’t think they intend to have a drive-up window like a traditional restaurant,” he said.
A representative from Casey’s attending the virtual meeting by phone noted that the company intended to use an app through which the order would be placed and the employees would alert customers waiting outside when their order was ready.
Describing the process, the representative said employees use an iPad that is able to scan IDs offered by those making curbside purchases to make sure they are not fake. She said she oversees 12 Casey’s stores and no one has used the curbside option to buy alcohol so far. Purchasers traditionally come inside, she said. Employees at Casey’s have been undergoing training to use the new curbside system, she said.
Responding to a question about fake IDs and interaction with the police, the representative said if the ID would be identified as fake, the employee would confiscate it and turn it over to the police.
Councilmember Theresa Rusch described the process as “out of character in terms of how we sell liquor and deliver it.”
She said she thought it was a bad idea to “just run it out, like you are delivering pizza.”
Councilmember Bill Wilson said the request would be defining the parking lot as part of the store’s premises.
He said he believed similar arrangements were in place at other locations, adding that he believed the “framework was legal." In light of COVID-19, he said, many retailers were using curbside pickup models.
Clark noted the proximity of the high school to Casey’s.
“Do we need this?” she asked.
Having a drive-up liquor option on a main road that leads out of town might put an added strain on the city’s police department, she said.
Police Chief Scott Marquardt said he saw an opportunity for Casey’s employees to become more diligent about to whom they sold liquor. He suggested the company might consider offering training to its employees to look at the occupants within the car when they delivered alcohol curbside. If the purchaser was of legal age, but in the company of those underage, he said, he saw an opportunity to identify those situations, citing it as an opportunity that might not have been available when purchasers came inside the store.
Rusch said she was concerned about the type of message being sent to the community by granting the company’s request.
A vote on the change of premise request produced a tie with Councilmembers Wilson, Larry Laehn and Ryan Holbrook voting in favor of the measure. Councilmembers Clark, Rusch and Devin Elliott voted against it.
After breaking the tie, Welch said she voted in favor of the measure because information could be gathered about who was purchasing alcohol and who might be in the vehicle.
Class A liquor license vote
During discussion before approving a class A liquor license for Casey’s, Hulick said that the issue was the same as the one discussed at the council’s Sept. 15 meeting.
The company already holds a class A license, allowing it to sell beer to be consumed off premise. The new license would allow the store to sell other types of intoxicants for consumption off premise. Would the new license be approved, Hulick said, other intoxicants, along with beer, could be sold curbside and delivered to customers in the store’s parking lot.
“I don’t like the proliferation of outlets either, but we have to be consistent,” Wilson said.
“How can we say ‘no’ to one legal operation if we don’t say ‘no’ to others?” he asked.
“I plan to vote ‘yes’ on this one, not because I think it’s great to have lots and lots of liquor stores, but this is a legal business in good standing asking to be able to extend their product line,” he said.
Rusch said she, too, wanted to be consistent, but, she said: “consistent in the other way.”
She cited what she said were nine places within a half mile that sell liquor.”
“That don’t cut it,” she said.
“I would like to see how this outdoor area turns out before we offer any more alcohol,” Clark said. “Let’s give this a year — I’m sure that’s not too much to ask — and see how it goes.”
Clark, too, cited close proximity of locations selling liquor, including two places which, she said, were nearly across the street and both were near the high school.
She suggested council might poll voters to gain their thoughts about the issuance of licenses.
Citing the application as “made in good faith,” Laehn said council had not changed its policy. He suggested a discussion on policy might be appropriate, but at another time.
Citing a lack of consistency with how policy had been previously applied, Wilson said: “If a wanted development comes into town, there’s one set of rules, and for others, there’s another set of rules.”
Said Clark: “How many of those places would you like to be gas stations? There has to be consistency, but I don’t want anyone to forget, we are Milton, we don’t have to do what everybody else does. We can be better.”
Hulick said Casey’s would be the first gas station to receive a class A license to sell hard liquor.
The east side Kwik Trip and the former Milton Travel Mart had class A beer licenses. Now, the Dollar General, Cowley’s Piggly Wiggly and Beverage Mart have class A liquor licenses, he said.
Said Wilson: “Things were changed for Kwik Trip because we wanted Kwik Trip.”
He said other businesses “that have been here for a considerable amount of time” have been denied.
Holbrook noted that Dollar General was approved and Casey’s had asked first.
“For consistency’s sake, it doesn’t make sense to deny this when we let Dollar General have it,” he said.
Said Clark: “You are opening up a can of worms here … everybody is going to come to us.”
A motion to deny the license application failed, with Wilson, Laehn and Holbrook voting against it and Clark, Rusch and Elliott voting for approval. Welch cast the tie-breaking vote.
A motion to approve the license passed with votes following the same pattern: Wilson, Laehn and Holbrook voting for approval, and Clark, Rusch and Elliott voting against the measure. The mayor cast the tie-breaking vote, carrying the motion.
Welch said she voted to approve the license in favor of consistency.