HomeNewsThree liquor store applications + one intersection = proposed stricter law in...

Three liquor store applications + one intersection = proposed stricter law in Columbia County

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When three different people with the last name Patel applied to open liquor stores on the same intersection in Evans late last year, it got the attention of Columbia County Commissioner Connie Melear.

The District 1 commissioner, who represents Evans and Martinez residents, voted against all three applicants, but was out voted 4-1 by her fellow commissioners who approved one application and rejected the other two at the corner of Furys Ferry Road and Evans to Locks Road.

Columbia County Commissioner Connie Melear represents Evans and Martinez. She opposes high concentration of liquor stores in the county. Photo courtesy Columbia County.

So, Melear has switched tactics and wants to toughen county ordinances to prevent a high concentration of liquor stores anywhere in the county. She is backed by District 3 Commissioner Gary Richardson, and her fellow commissioners agreed to a 180-day moratorium on any new liquor store licensing.

Georgia law mandates that a liquor store cannot be withing 500 yards of another liquor store, but allows counties and cities to make the spacing more restrictive. Currently, Columbia County allows liquor stores within 500 yards, but under Melear’s proposal no liquor store could be within one mile of another one.

The proposed changes would also prevent a liquor store from opening within 200 yards of a church. The current ordinance mandates a 100-yard exclusion zone around churches. Liquor stores would also have to be at least 200 yards from county parks, schools and alcohol treatment facilities.

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The proposed changes have one Patel rejoicing and another complaining he and consumers will be hurt.

“There will be no competition,” said Pranav Patel, who filed his application first before his two competitors. Existing liquor stores “can price gauge as much as they want,” he added.

Melear doesn’t see it that way.

“A mile is not that far to go,” Melear said. “So driving a mile to a liquor store is not going to stifle competition.”

Pranav Patel’s application was rejected because he does not own the property where he had wanted to open the store.

Samrat Patel does own the property at 3901 Tanner Ct. where he began construction the day after commissioners voted to approve his application. Tanner Court is right next to the fire station at the intersection of Furys Ferry and Evans to Locks. Samrat Patel’s application was filed one week after Pranav Patel’s application.

“I support whatever the county comes up with,” Samrat Patel said.

Pranav Patel said that Samrat supports the proposed ordinance because it would protect his business from competition.

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The third applicant, Niren Patel, did not return a call Friday and his wife, Shivangini Patel, declined comment.

The proposal is currently being refined by county staffers and reviewed by the county attorney and could be ready for review by April and become law by May, said Matt Schlachter, Columbia County deputy county manager.

Schlachter said state law would not allow Columbia County to permit all three applicants to open liquor stores on the same intersection because of the 500-yard restriction. But neither state law nor county code specified how to deal with three applicants at once, he said.

The proposed county ordinance would clearly state that the first applicant would be allowed to get the permit, but would have to open up the store within a certain time period. That way a person could not blanket the county with applications for every street corner as a way to prevent competitors from opening up a new store.

Joshua B. Good is a staff reporter covering Columbia County and military/veterans’ issues for The Augusta Press. Reach him at [email protected] 

6 COMMENTS

  1. This needlessly limits free enterprise and competition, resulting in higher prices. Additionally space from churches is a joke.

    Columbia County prides ourselves in being modern and forward thinking…time to act like it.

    • Amen Bill. Let them put one every 100 yards if they want to and next door to churches and schools. They don’t limit the drug stores that way do they? The silly far right and their self proclaimed morality irritates the crap out of me and I am generally a conservative. Do they think anyone will drink any less whiskey if they have to drive further to get it? Heck, one could even argue that having fewer stores and driving further would expose the public to more drunks on the road. If they want to do something useful, increase architectural control of new construction to improve the aesthetics of commercial properties.

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