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South Kingstown Town Council Votes Down Liquor Store Hopeful

The Town Council ruled to retain the four-license cap on liquor stores in the town and nixed - at least for now - a proposal for an additional spirit store in South County Commons.

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 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.

Other Business

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.

annie h April 27, 2011 at 11:51 AM
I am glad that the TC has "tabled" this for now. Lets just hope that the said store never has a chance to open. I know I live right in town and mostly go to Patsy's or Sweeney's and I like to support LOCAL businesses and business owners. And, who the heck is Susan Pagliarini? If she is from E. Greenwich, how in the world would SHE know or think to know what OUR town needs..... I am sorry South County Commons is no "destination" shopping experience....there are barley any stores up there?!?!?!?! Tell her to open her package store up in E. Greenwich, where it can attract outsiders. I agree with Mr. O'Neil in him saying that the Commons should be searching for a sensational business, it needs it!
Ted Geisel April 27, 2011 at 09:53 PM
I think I'll have to respectfully disagree with Annie H. RI (and South Kingstown) needs jobs and this liquor store would have brought in jobs. In this economic climate we need to take whatever we can get. Sure it would be nice to see someone local open something up but seriously, she lives in East Greenwich. This RI we are talking about, it's not like she lives in Europe (like APCs owners). To say "how in the world would SHE know or think to know what OUR town needs....." is taking it a bit far. I've checked, they even speak the same language up there. Furthermore, the article led me to believe that no one in South Kingstown was seeking to open a liquor store themselves. According to the South County Commons website there are over 50 stores & services there. I don't think your assertion that "there are barley any stores up there?!?!?!?!" is justified. I think the Town Council made a mistake here & overstepped their bounds. Their arrangements seem to be based on protecting the market for the existing businesses. I don't feel that is within the domain of what the Town Council should be doing. Competition is good for the consumer, it forces businesses to be competitive on price. Who is the Town Council to tell you who you should & shouldn't have as a business in your retail park? What "sensational business" are they hoping to find? Perhaps with less meddling in the affairs of small business owners we wouldn't have this tax increase during such bad economic times.
Kathy DiPina April 28, 2011 at 01:44 PM
I agree, Sean. This is absurd. I suppose that the BP station on RT. 1 is taking away from the gas stations in town. What about the convenience store they have in the Commons? Did anyone complain about Brewed Awakenings? They are no different than Java, Panera, Starbucks, etc. This is blatant neo-prohibitionism supported by the skewed statistics of corrupt organizations such as NHTSA and MADD.
Brad April 28, 2011 at 03:26 PM
Exactly. I'm surprised to see the Town Council (particularly Mr. O'Neill) so eager to meddle and interfere with the free market. If there were other businesses interested in occupying the unit, they would have materialized by now. All this talk is just rhetorical cover for blatant prohibitionism and the desire of the council members simply to exercise power and throw their weight around.
June Cerrito April 28, 2011 at 03:53 PM
Perhaps the idea that the Commons would be a "destination" shopping experience was erroneous at the start. I think it is apparent that it is not and never will be a mini Garden City, as was originally proposed when the Commons was in the planning stages. It certainly is not a model of " a quaint New England Village". If I recall correctly, the Commons was to be a "no liquor" destination including the restaurants. I disagree with Sean's take on jobs. How many jobs would a "vintage" liquor store provide? Perhaps the Commons management needs to re-evaluate the retail aspects of the area. In my opinion it has not evolved into anything similar to what it was promised to be prior to the development of the area. It is an eyesore and intrusion on the "Gateway to South County".
annie h April 29, 2011 at 01:28 PM
There are plenty of places hiring in South Kingstown, how many new jobs would really be created by opening 1 new package store? There is no way there are 50 stores in the Commons....don't trust the website, go there, walk around! A bank, a few restaurants, a hotel that is over priced, C'mon. I agree with everything June said. As for Sean, and his Smart Alick comments...I am fully aware that residents of East Greenwich speak English...the point I was trying to make is that the town DOES NOT need another package store, the TC has the right to deny the license, and I certainly am GLAD THEY DID! SHE does not live in South Kingstown and shouldn't be proposing what SHE thinks our town needs.........I know RI is small, but the difference between EG & SK are HUGE!
Ted Geisel April 29, 2011 at 04:12 PM
Let the consumer decide, not the town council. What is more democratic than that? If the people of this town think that someone from East Greenwich shouldn't have a business here or we don't need another liquor store then they won't go to her store and she'll be out of business in no time. Right? If we are somehow awash in jobs as previous posters suggest then why does RI have one of the highest unemployment rates in the country? Should jobs in South Kingstown only go to South Kingstown residents? A new liquor store isn't going to generate a ton of jobs. Maybe 2-3? But to the people that get them it makes a big difference. Small businesses employ over half of all private sector workers. If this was a big company the town council and the state would fall over themselves to offer them tax breaks and incentives so that when the next election comes around they can brag about the jobs created. When it comes to the small business owner though the town and state puts up as many roads blocks as they can. Whether it is denying licenses or stalling for 15 years while the beaches erode away in front of businesses in Matunuck. If American Power Conversion, one of the largest employers in South Kingstown, was asking for a new permit to expand would you feel the same way? After all they are owned by Europeans now. They can't possibly know what South Kingstown needs, correct? We should be doing all we can to help businesses and their owners no matter where they come from.
Kate A. May 03, 2011 at 10:59 PM
So Mr. O'Neill wins again with his new majority of female followers. The dems must be like wet hornets, dealing with two defectors wooed away by O'Neill. Too bad his new "leadership" wasn't for the benefit of the taxpayers, or for the good of SK business in general. Keeping taxpaying businesses out of SK , suppressing growth in the tax base isn't what most intelligent people want, especially as we all faced the 4th quarter tax payment due this week. Wasn't there another liquor store planned on Route 1 some years ago that O'Neill interfered with up at the Rt1/Rt 138 intersection? Some sort of building or business that he was all up in arms about anyway.
Vic Ki May 06, 2011 at 11:05 AM
To say we need paying jobs in this town when we have so many open positions at min wage is laughable. We do need jobs however we need jobs that are paying far above min wage. To suggest a liquor store in the Commons would be the right kind of jobs is absurd. Also to suggest a liquor store is comparable to other businesses is incorrect. We have 4 local business owners who own the 4 liquor stores. You have to look at their "numbers" to see if there is a "need" for another store or if we could possibly put them out of business by approving another store. Is there a need for another Gas station or Coffee shop ...probably not but based on "the consumers" the numbers say they want it .... I think you will see that for yourself when your sitting in line for coffee or for gas ... I myself never stand in line at the package store because they are for the most part DOWN in numbers based on this economy. i am in no way suggesting that any business is thriving however some are hurting. so to add competition and put these LONG time LOCAL business owners at risk would not be prudent thing to do. The town council did their due diligence by protecting the existing businesses. I guess we all wish we were in a growing economy but that is not reality. I look at this not as a business owner but as someone who lives in town that preaches "shop local" yet when push comes to shove many people are willing to sacrifice the local business owner solely to Win a Fight with town council....
Pebble27 June 01, 2011 at 05:54 PM
Comment to Annie H. With all due respect to you madam, if every business owner had to live in SK, which of course they do not, you might have an argument, but you do not. By the way, I live in North Kingstown, but I sometimes shop in SK, and I'm wondering if comments on here must be from residents only. Madam, you live in a seaside community, so catch the next boat to the real America.
Kathy DiPina June 01, 2011 at 09:37 PM
Pebble27 I live in SK have stood in line MANY times at various liquor stores, whether it be students or tourists...Sweeney's or Schwaby's. I don't think that another one would hurt and it would certainly be convenient for those living in the Commons. We don't need a zillion nail salons but nobody is complaining about those.
Kate A. June 02, 2011 at 04:52 PM
SK does need more choices, not less, and the increase in the commercial tax base is good for the Town. Unfortunately there are those with a vote like councilman O'Neill and his cadre on the council who seek to protect some (but not all) local businesses by limiting the competition. We can vote all of those people out in 2011. I hope the proposer of the additional liquor store continues to pursue this store in the commons. Businesses should not be afraid of competition. We are all free to shop where we like, and existing businesses will not lose customers who feel they are being treated fairly (price and service).
MVD June 02, 2011 at 05:55 PM
It would be nice to have a liquor store at the Commons. I work at URI and have a child in daycare at Goddard. Sometimes on my way home from work I stop and get a bottle of wine, but because there are no liquor stores on this side of town, I have to drive all the way to Wakefield Liquors before doubling back to the Commons to pick up my child. I think a small store like the one that was proposed would be convenient for those who do business in the Commons.
Kathy DiPina June 02, 2011 at 06:31 PM
LS there was an Ames where Marshall's is. You can get name brand stuff for reasonable prices at Marshall's. I'd rather get a $100 pair of jeans for $20 there than a $20 pair at Ames if you know what I mean. I agree about Old Navy or GAP. I've been wishing for one of those for years. I have three sons and it's hard to find clothes. I went to Marshall's on Friday and they had no inventory for 14 year old boys in pants. Instead of that silly Wet Seal a GAP would have been wonderful in that spot. jmo
Dave100AP June 02, 2011 at 10:09 PM
The argument that a business owner should live IN the town their business is in reflects the worst aspects of provincial thinking that plagues Rhode Island. This is an absurd viewpoint. More liquor stores in town are not the answer to a depressed economy. The type of jobs these businesses provide are not desirable as they are low-paying, typically without benefits, and don't require any special skills. Is it really that inconvenient to have to drive a mile or three to buy alcohol? I live out in West Kingston and other than Wolf Rocks, there's nothing! Plan accordingly, it's easy.
Kate A. June 03, 2011 at 12:12 AM
Why the assumption that the jobs are not desirable? It's absurd to think that there aren't people out here who need jobs, any jobs, to put food on the table, a roof over their heads and pay the outrageous property taxes in SK. The fact is that there are no other businesses looking to move to SK. Here is a business that wants to open in a zoning district that was specifically created to include liquor stores. So why keep it out? ncil. It's a Special Management District, just like next to the police station on Kingstown Road where that new restaurant is going in. Anyone see that monstrosity yet? The town made the South County Commons developer jump through years of hoops to build something acceptable looking, and they let that box with windows be built on Kingstown Road. Could it be uglier? Reminds of the old duplex housing developments near Quonset.
Dave100AP June 03, 2011 at 12:56 AM
They're not desirable jobs because they are for the most part minimum-wage short term jobs til the person can find a better job somewhere else. I don't suggest doing away with any job, but a business that hires at a decent living wage is always going to be preferable to low paying service jobs. Do you want to live in a town that is predominantly employing service-industry workers at minimum wage? I don't. That's one reason why I live here, and not in Pawtucket or Woonsocket.
Kate A. June 03, 2011 at 08:57 PM
What businesses exist in SK that are employing large numbers of people in high paying jobs? Most of the jobs here are service jobs. There are some decent jobs at the hospital, but those have been decreasing while the number of lower paying jobs are increasing. Most of the people who live down here commute to the "good" jobs. That's because SK has gone out of its way for decades to make the town an unattractive place for businesses, imposing greater tax burdens on residential property in the process. The point is that the zoning allows liquor stores in the Commons. The law allows another liquor store license in SK based on our population. The Town Council has no business protecting select existing businesses from competition.
Dave100AP June 03, 2011 at 10:21 PM
Kate, I agree - there aren't a lot of large employers in town with good jobs. But that's no reason to bring in another small business with poor paying jobs. We as a town should be trying to get more companies like APC, COX, banks, and medical/tech industries to open locations in our town. The Town Council has every right to do what it did. If you don't like the way they voted you can always run for Town Council and vote in favor of more liquor stores, or more tattoo shops, or whatever. Maybe we need a pawn shop up at the Commons? That employees people, and since it doesn't appear that you're too discriminating about what type of businesses are in our town, why not?
Kathy DiPina June 03, 2011 at 10:52 PM
There is a medical facility, Cox, and a bank in the Commons already. I'm pretty sure that we are talking about a small store considering the area. People are selling gold left and right so why not a pawn shop? We have consignment shops...is there much of a difference? This is South County, not South Hampton.
Kate A. June 04, 2011 at 08:28 PM
Dave , We differ on what constitutes a good job. I don't discriminate against businesses that are legally allowed to exist, exist in this town , and exist in the appropriate zoning district (as miniscule as those areas are in SK). Just because you won't use the new liquor store or a tatoo shop doesn't mean it's not a good business - they are legal businesses that pay taxes and provide goods and services and JOBS. The tatoo shop on Main Street is in a nice building and looks very nice. I don't patronize a tatoo shop, but I seem to recall a story about the shop moving from a smaller location, so I'm guessing that they must be doing well. One less empty building, someone making an honest living. What's not to like? I've never been to a pawn shop, but if it's allowed it should not be prohibited just because people like you think it's beneath your idea of what belongs in SK, as though SK is some sort of elite executive community (love the South Hampton reference above!). You sound like you look down on an awful lot of businesses and the people who own them and work in them. Thanks for the endorsement for Town Council, but I wouldn't make a good town council member - I'd like to keep people who look down on honest jobs and the people who hold them from moving to SK, and that would not be lawful. I can only hope the Council loses this one, as well they should.
Tim June 06, 2011 at 09:32 AM
Kate, the building next to the police station is NOT the proposed restaurant. It is housing South Shore Mental Health Services is putting up for some of it's clients. Construction for the restaurant hasn't started yet. Curiously, the land for both those businesses and the police station were considered unbuildable 'wet lands' until Fiore bought the land (for peanuts, I'm sure) and miraculously, got the designation changed. Hmmmm... Must be nice to be connected. Maybe the liquor store owner hopefuls should hire Fiore's lawyer to present (bribe) their concerns to the council.
Gary S. June 07, 2011 at 02:38 AM
I think a great issue on here has been brought up that the town culture has changed. I love downtown Wakefield, but realistically can I afford to shop at the specialty stores in town for clothing and knick-knacks?! Absolutely not. Nor could I afford a specialty wine shop, but I do think everyone has the right to try and make their business work. I miss the days of doing all my business downtown, from groceries to the lumber yard and pharmacy. It is sad to see how yupified SK has become...
Laura Winward June 07, 2011 at 12:59 PM
Gary-being a business owner in town, I can tell you that its not a matter of the town becoming "yupified", its the cost of doing business. Independent business owners don't have the luxury that huge box stores do to negotiate rock bottom prices because we aren't buying 50,000 units of something. Ask any independent store owner and I will bet that they will tell you they are by no means getting rich, and probably didn't collect a paycheck from their own business for a long while after opening. I don't think that the general public appreciates the expense of running an independent business-especially a retail business (vs food or service). The costs are astronomical and the profit margins are pretty low if you try to stay competitive, and unfortunately some of that has to be passed on as higher prices. Its the little things that add up to independent businesses. Credit card fees, bags, a box to put that pair of earrings in, outrageous advertising costs just to remind people that we are around, payroll, lights, maintenance, licensing, signs, hangers, etc....every one of those things comes out of our pockets and our profits. I don't think any of the businesses in town are trying to gouge their customers, we are just trying to keep our doors open in a dying economy.
Kathy DiPina June 07, 2011 at 03:40 PM
Laura, I could be mistaken but didn't you wish Patti Cakes well? They came here from Florida and nobody is bashing them. This poor woman is from EG and all of a sudden ppl are "Not in my town, we don't need another business." Why? Because it's a liquor store? You make some very good points and I've been trying to be conscious of not using credit b/c of the fees or refusing bags. If I buy 6 oranges at the market I don't use the little plastic bag. They're going into a bigger bag anyway. The consumer has to help out as well. You forgot to mention one other things that businesses do and that's donate. How many times have you been asked to sponsor a team or donate a gift basket for a silent auction? We all want to be loyal to the small businesses but other than liquor stores you can get pretty much everything at Marshalls/HomeGoods. We have to be loyal to our pocket books, too. All that being said, that woman has every right to open her store in the Commons.
Laura Winward June 07, 2011 at 04:26 PM
Hi Kathy, I did wish Patti Cakes well,and I'm trying to stay out of the Liquor store arguement, although I feel residency shouldn't be an issue when it comes to being allowed to open a business. I was mostly making my point to the comments made by Gary which to me seemed a bit of a dig to all small businesses in Wakefield, as if we think we are elitists, or that we overcharge our customers to project an image. I just want people to understand what our true costs are, and what we compete against. Thank you for the mention of how often the local merchants are called upon to donate to every cause, sometimes by people/organizations that are from out of town, or have never once stepped foot into our establishments until the day they came asking. Every one of those donations come out of our bottom lines, and yet I think the merchants of Wakefield are some of the most generous individuals I have ever met. How many donations have they gotten from Walmart, or Marshalls, or Target? Your points are well taken, and there are times that all of us have to do what is fiscally reponsible for our families and our budgets. I just want Gary and others to understand that the reason he can't find everything he needs in town at a reasonable price is exactly because of places like Walmart and Marshalls and that cheap, disposable imports from foreign countries with minimal labor rights, though convenient and econmical, are also the death of the mom and pop stores all over the country.
Dave100AP June 11, 2011 at 01:03 PM
I don't view SK as an "elite executive community" - far from it. SK's heritage is a farming community, with desirable open spaces, beachs, and a University. I want to see this heritage continue. I think there's quite a difference between not wanting pawn shops (many of which are used to front stolen goods) , and more tattoo shops and liquor stores. I'm not "looking down" on the people that own these businesses and work in them - I feel that those businesses are better suited to larger urban areas. I want to preserve the quality of life and character of SK which is exactly what attracted many of us to live in this community. I've worked hard to get to a point in life where I can choose where I want to live and I want SK to remain a place that is appealing. You're trying to paint me as some sort of elitist - I don't think it's elitist to set the bar higher than liquor stores, pawn shops, and tattoo parlors. Sure, those are legal businesses that pay taxes, etc., but if you could be honest about it, you'd agree that they don't provide the same type of employment opportunities and customer base as places like Brewed Awakenings or The Right Click do. Maybe I'm wrong, but I'd bet that most people would also rather see more of these types of businesses open.
Dave100AP June 11, 2011 at 01:14 PM
Laura, you hit the nail on the head! Your assessment of Walmart is exactly right - we're destroying ourselves in our lust for the cheapest goods possible, consequences be damned. I won't shop at Walmart because I don't want to wear a shirt that was made using child-labor in some sweatshop in Thailand, Pakistan, or wherever. As for the attitude expressed by Gary about "Yuppies"; that is the weakest type of dig there is. No one who worked to get where they are should ever allow someone to try to use that accomplishment as some sort of insult. It's ridiculous. To those who feel that "Yuppie" is some sort of a bad thing, maybe if you'd put yourselve's through school (I did - a cheap, little college that has no status) and worked your tail off, you wouldn't feel resentment towards those who did.

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