The Town Council quelled hopes for a liquor store in South County Commons on Monday night, voting to limit the number of licenses to South Kingstown's four existing liquor stores.
After census data released last month confirmed that South Kingstown’s population peaked to 30,000 residents, per state mandate the town is now eligible to host up to five liquor stores. State law limits a town’s ability to license beer, wine and liquor stores to one per every 6,000 residents.
After news broke an East Greenwich woman, Susan Pagliarini, jumped at the opportunity to harness the “destination shopping” business appeal at the South County Commons with a proposal for a 1,742-square-foot "vintage" wine and spirits vending location, according to the woman’s attorney and husband, John Pagliarini.
Pagliarini attempted to persuade council members to approve issuance of an additional license that would not only service a growing population, but also attract outsiders and provide locals with more convenience.
Each of the town’s four stores exists within about about a half-mile radius of each other, Pagliarini told the council: Patsy’s Package Store on High Street, Geaber’s Liquors on Old Tower Hill Road, Wakefield Liquors on Kingstown Road and Sweeney’s Wine and Spirits located on Main Street.
Citing a depressed economy and no quantifiable need to approve licensing a fifth business to serve beer, wine and liquor, the council unanimously voted to keep the number at four.
“My concern is that I just don’t think that the overall [liquor sales] business has been increased,” said James O’Neill, councilman. “If we had seen huge numbers of growth in the liquor industry, [then] maybe. I wish the commons, in that space, would search for a sensational business, and I think [a new liquor store] would be cannibalizing other liquor stores in town.”
While Pagliarini argued his wife’s proposed business would draw upon the South County Commons regional consumer base, the council was not swayed – the new store is proposed at just 1.1 miles away from Old Tower Hill Road and Geaber’s Liquors.
“It’s very difficult when we have s to sit up here and decided something like this because it really isn’t our job keep competition away from other businesses,” said Council Vice President Carol Hagen McEntee. “I think South County Commons, in my view, was originally supposed to be like a garden city or a mini Newport, a small shopping center that would bring people in with clothing shops, movies – I didn’t envision a liquor store.”
Although the matter is tabled for the time being, council President Ella Whaley assured Pagliarini it could be revisited for approval at a later date.
The Town Council accepted the town’s final budget for fiscal year 2012 in the amount of $89.77 million, which will represent a $621,000 tax levy or 0.95 percent increase over the current year. The Council also authorized the appropriate fund transfers to each of the town’s eight operating funds, with O’Neill voting against.
Town Manager Stephen Alfred said taxpayers would still have the opportunity to petition any portion of the budget funding until June 7 through a signed petition with at least 199 signatures.