LaGrange considering limiting liquor stores

Published 8:45 am Wednesday, October 11, 2023

The LaGrange City Council is currently in discussions to potentially limit the number of package stores within the city.

During the work session on Tuesday morning, the council discussed limiting the number of package (liquor) stores within LaGrange.

Councilman Jim Arrington asked city staff to evaluate the current package store locations to have a discussion on the number allowed within the city and the distance requirements they have.’

“We’re trying to clean up. We’re trying to make LaGrange better. The more liquor stores, in my opinion, just brings the worst in people out,” Arrington said.

LaGrange currently has 10 package stores which are mostly divided evenly around the city, City Planner Mark Kostial said. 

Package stores are currently only allowed within three of the city’s 14 zoning districts: Activity Center Mixed Use, Corridor Mixed Use and the Downtown District. Those districts represent about 1600 parcels or 13 percent of all parcels within the city.

Package stores also cannot be located within 300 feet of a church or housing authority property, or within 600 feet of a school or college campus.

Kostial said he and City Attorney Jeff Todd looked at how several other surrounding municipalities handle limiting liquor stores and provided a few options should the council want to further limit them.

Kostial said the majority limit liquor stores by residential population. 

“Many of these municipalities allow two liquor stores and then one per every 10,000 residents. So if that were the case, the city of LaGrange would allow five instead of 10,” Kostial said.

Kostial said the city could also limit package stores by modifying the zoning designations where they are permitted or by requiring a certain district between package stores.

Arrington voiced support for limiting package stores per capita limiting the city to 10, noting he doesn’t want any businesses to have to close.

“We couldn’t take any away. We just couldn’t add any more until we reached a certain number or whatever we decide to do,” Arrington said.

If a package store were to close, the business would have a certain amount of time to reopen before it would lose its grandfathered status, Kostial said.

The city currently has about one package store per 3,000 people, Arrington said, suggesting that the council could not allow another until the city reaches 40,000 residents.

Councilman Nathan Gaskin pointed out that limiting the number of package stores could cause bigger “mega” stores to buy out or push out current stores.

“If somebody wanted to build a bigger liquor store … they would in essence have to buy out [a store] and move it. How much is that worth? Because you can’t add any more liquor stores,” Gaskin said. “We are definitely tinkering with the market. But I think it’s tapering in a good way. But could be dangerous too.”

“We all want growth in the city but no one talks about the crime, that’s going to come with growth. The more people that come here there’s going to be more crime. If we add more liquor stores, this is going to enhance the crime. So I think 10 liquor stores is plenty for around here,” Councilman Leon Childs said. “I’m speaking for the whole city but I know in District 2, don’t want to see any more liquor stores there.”

Only Councilman Tom Gore pushed back on the idea, saying the market should sort out the issue.

“I remember a time when we had a person who had a relatively small liquor store business and was essentially run out of business by a big box liquor store,” Gore said, noting that if the city were to limit the number it could unfairly tip the market.

“I’m not in favor of a million liquor stores, but I think the market, to some degree, can sort of self-regulate this. My first impression of this is it’s a little bit of an overreach, but I understand the purpose and I’m not in favor of a liquor store on every corner.”

City staff were instructed to prepare an ordinance that would potentially limit the number of liquor stores based on population, but it could be a while before the council will vote on the issue.