Archive for Thursday, June 23, 2005

Is retail liquor in Main Street’s future?

Possibility of neighboring package store has downtown talking

June 23, 2005

Sometime within the next year, downtown might be looking a little less empty. A proposed liquor store might be filling one of the street's unoccupied storefronts, officially turning Eudora into a wet city.

The implications of the addition of another retail store in Eudora have not been lost on Eudora merchants since the Kansas Legislature amended liquor laws this spring. In the past a dry Kansas municipality had to have a successful referendum before licensing the operation of liquor stores. When the legislation goes into effect July 1, it would take a specific ordinance banning retail liquor sales by the city government to keep a store out. If nothing is done either for or against a liquor store in Eudora, then the town, as part of the bill, would become officially wet Feb. 16, 2006.

These changes have sparked interest that centers on the future of Eudora's downtown area.

"Most people are very positive on it," Eudora Mayor Tom Pyle said.

Supporters of the store maintain that one of its biggest advantages for Eudora is economic.

While the Eudora Chamber of Commerce has not given an official stance on the issue, Chamber President Angela Miller sees a connection.

"My opinion is that the liquor store would bring good business to Eudora," Miller said.

She said it would have a specifically positive impact on the downtown area.

"We would have another business downtown and not another empty space," Miller said. "We would have many more people down there."

She said bringing in a place to purchase alcohol would also diversify Eudora's overall commercial variety.

"I think it would be good to have somewhere else where people could buy something else," Miller said.

Some downtown businesses strongly support the possibility of a liquor store joining their ranks.

"Too much of the city's revenue is going to Lawrence or other places," said Danny Strimple, owner of Cutter's Smokehouse.

The loss of tax revenue has been a rallying cry to most of the supporters, but another reason for including a liquor store might purely be for convenience, Pyle said.

One or two citizens have approached the mayor with concerns for the incoming store, but Pyle said the chance for having one downtown was strong.

"It doesn't matter if we sell alcohol or not, people are going to buy it," Pyle said.

The new law is part of a general shift in the times, Pyle said. In the past it would have taken a massive amount of public support for a city council to consider letting a liquor store into Eudora.

"This way it puts the burden on the citizens if they don't want one," Pyle said.

An argument against the inclusion of the liquor store is that it might attract the wrong sort of crowd to Eudora's main street.

Suzanne Ashley, proprietor of Suzanne Ashley Alterations and Other Wonders doesn't see it as a worry.

"I don't think it will bring terrible people," Ashley said.

Tina Lencioni, who sat behind the counter at DC's Custom Bike Shop, said bringing a new shop downtown might be a good publicity move.

"There's a lot of people who don't even know Main Street exists," Lencioni says.

The wave of support from downtown businesses doesn't include them all.

Kaye Spitzli, co-owner of the Quilting Bits and Pieces shop, is far from copacetic with the thought of a liquor store moving in.

"I think when you get liquor stores, things just go downhill, and things deteriorate," Spitzli said. "We need a lot of businesses downtown but not a liquor store."

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