Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Oconee County BOC Set to Approve QuikTrip Beer and Wine License

Grabbing a Cold One

QuikTrip has had 98 violations of alcohol beverage ordinances in the last 10 years, including 30 in Georgia, according to paperwork the Oklahoma corporation filed in support of its application for a beer and wine license for the gas station and convenience store it plans to open next month at the intersection of Daniells Bridge road and the Oconee Connector.

Almost all of the violations are for selling alcohol to a minor, with all nine of the violations in Georgia since July of 2004 for that infraction.

The Oconee County Board of Commissioners held a public hearing Tuesday on the QuikTrip request for its license to sell beer and wine at what it calls QuikTrip #819 and voted to put the final approval on the consent agenda for its meeting on June 1.

Unless a commissioner asks that the license approval be removed from the consent agenda, it will be approved with other routine matters without discussion at the June 1 meeting.

I asked Sheriff Scott Berry today if the county has a problem with the illegal sale of alcohol to minors, and he said it does.

He said his office has a vigorous effort underway to enforce the law and that he had met with representatives of QuikTrip on Tuesday “about that very issue.”

Berry said he explained to the representatives of QuikTrip that his office will monitor sales, be aggressive in making arrests and seize evidence in support of those arrests.

“Right now, to my knowledge, we don’t have anyone systematically selling” to minors, the sheriff said.

Berry said that QuikTrip plans to operate 24 hours a day and that residents had reason “to be concerned” about public safety at such a station.

In fact, back in June of 2009, when QuikTrip asked the county for a number of variances so it could put the gas station on the 1.3-acre site, its representatives raised the issue of customer safety at the facility during the public hearing.

QuikTrip asked that it not be required to plant a vegetive buffer between the station and the firehouse behind it because of a concern that patrons would purchase beer and wine in the store and then drink it hidden from public view in that buffer. The county proposed the wooden fence that has been used as an alternative.

As part of the license application, QuikTrip had to indicate if “anyone connected with this business” within the last five years “has been found in violation of the ordinances of Oconee County, or any other county or municipality, governing alcoholic beverages licenses.”

QuikTrip chose to list violations back through April of 1970.

Sheriff Berry told me today he had not reviewed the list and had scheduled his meeting with QuikTrip officials as part of his regular procedure of meeting with representatives of businesses coming to the county.

Racetrac, which operates a similar gas station and convenience store at the intersection of Hog Mountain road and U.S. 441, filed an application in 2009 for its annual renewal of its beer and wine license.

On the application, Racetrac said “it owns numerous convenience stores through the State of Georgia, some of which have had administrative violations.”

The application also said that an employee of Racetrac #51, the station in Oconee County, was issued a citation on May 24, 2007, “because the employee failed to properly calculate the age of the purchaser while entering the ID into the register.”

Berry put it more simply: “Racetrac sold to us.”