Monday, April 14, 2014
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Commission recommends new type of liquor license for city of Lincoln

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[April 14, 2014]  The Lincoln Liquor Commission met April 7 to consider a request to create a new category of liquor license inside city limits.

The request came from Cliff McCumber, who owns the 5th St. Food Mart.

In the end the commission granted the request, but final approval must come from the city council.

In attendance at the meeting were commissioners Les Plotner, Keith Snyder and Dan Wheat, along with city attorney Blinn Bates and McCumber.

In the city of Lincoln there are numerous types of liquor licenses available, but the three most commonly used are Classes A, B and C.

Class A is a package license that allows businesses to sell closed containers of liquor during specific hours of the day. Class B is a tavern license that allows the business to sell liquor for consumption on or off the premises. In this license there is a condition that at least 50 percent of the alcohol sold is consumed on the premises. The Class C license is for restaurant use. Liquor may be sold for consumption on the premises, but at least 60 percent of the total receipts for any given day have to be for the purchase of food.

McCumber came to the commission asking that they create a new license commonly referred to as a pour license. He said this license would allow him to "pour" from an open container a maximum of four 12-ounce glasses of beer or wine to a customer for consumption on his business premises.

He told the commissioners early on that he really isn't interested in serving liquor, doesn't care if nobody would buy it, but he needs this pour license so he can offer video gaming in his business establishment.

McCumber said that as a convenience store, he can't have the gaming, but he is trying to compete with businesses such as Thorntons and Beck's, both on the west edge of town. These two businesses sell convenience products and fuel, just as McCumber does, but because they are truck stops, they can also have video gaming, while McCumber cannot.

McCumber's plan, should the license be approved, is to partition a portion of his store off from the general public, leaving only a doorway into a room where liquor would be poured to clients as they play the video gambling machines.

McCumber said that with gas that particular day at $3.38 a gallon, he is losing 23 cents a gallon in his business. Adding the video gaming would add to his bottom line and make it easier for him to maintain his business in Lincoln.

He commented that he is a local businessman with a small business in town. He's been a 25-year resident of Lincoln, his kids go to school here, and he is a member of the community. He also noted that both Thorntons and Beck's are corporate-owned, with their business profits going to another location, not Lincoln.

In addition, he said having the gaming and the pour license would enable him to hire more employees.

He pointed out that the city would benefit from this through the state's distribution of gaming profits, as it would add more machines in Lincoln. Additionally, McCumber said the city could benefit from having another licensing fee, and he suggested that they make it expensive.

He told the group that as a businessman, he was trying to "think outside the box" in growing his business. He noted that when convenience stores first started, that, too, was thinking outside the box, as no one imagined offering retail products inside a gas station until the first one happened and was a success. He finished those comments by saying that now, these types of businesses are the norm, and you don't see many businesses that are just gas stations.

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When discussion began, Plotner asked if McCumber planned to sell beer on tap. McCumber answered that he supposed he could, but he really doesn't want to do that. His idea is to pour beer into a glass from a bottle or can. McCumber added that he does not believe anyone will come to his establishment just to drink.

Plotner also questioned the volume of wine to be poured. Four 12-ounce glasses is roughly four cans of beer. By industry standards, a bottle of wine in a standard size is 25 ounces and a magnum is double that. Therefore four 12-ounce glasses of wine would equate to one magnum bottle. Plotner wondered if people consumed that much wine, wouldn't they leave the establishment a little "tipsy"?

McCumber said that happens anyway in taverns and other establishments. He also noted that he has the right to refuse to serve someone who seems to have had too much. Along that same topic, he said his clerks already do that on the package side. If they have a customer whom they believe is drunk, they do refuse to sell to them.

The commissioners then talked about who else could apply for a pour license. It was noted that any business that sold package liquor and had the ability to establish a separate gaming room could seek the same permissions. They named off other convenience stores in town and also drugstores and grocers that sell liquor.

The discussion moved on to where to add the license. Bates said it could be done as an extension to the existing Class A license and be labeled an "Aa."

They moved on to talk about the cost and how the license would be established. The criteria ended up being that the business establishment must first hold a package liquor license at a cost of $1,250 annually. The business may then apply for a pour license at an additional cost of $1,125 annually.

Bates advised the commissioners that he could research the topic and draw out an ordinance for the city of Lincoln. It will then have to be presented to the city council, and they will hold the final decision as to whether or not to permit a new license type in the city of Lincoln.

In each liquor license class, there is a limit to the number of licenses the city will issue. The group decided to establish only five pour licenses, but stated that if they needed more, they could increase that number later.

When all the discussion was finished, a motion to create the license was made. Plotner and Wheat both voted yes with Snyder voting no. Snyder commented that he felt a Class B license would be sufficient for the request and that no new license was needed. He also commented that he didn't believe this was a change that was needed in this community.

With two yeses, the motion carried. Bates will prepare the ordinance for the council, but Snyder also advised Plotner and Wheat that because of his own "no" vote, they will have to attend the council meeting and present the request to aldermen.


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