Statesboro City Council entertained multiple applications for liquor store locations during their regular meeting on Tuesday, May 3.
Two applications faced no conflicts and were unanimously approved. Five of the proposed sites, however, presented proximity conflicts and were ultimately denied by Council.
Per a recommendation from City Manager Charles Penny, applicants who received denials at Tuesday’s meeting have 60 days to propose alternate locations without paying an additional fee.
Watch the full meeting VIDEO here:
Whiskey Business – 1410 Northside Drive East
The first location to be approved on Tuesday was for Whiskey Business, which will be located in the former Bright Ideas building at 1410 Northside Drive East. Represented by local attorney Chris Gohagan, owners Jeffrey and Julie Dawson also operate Bootleggers – a liquor store in Hinesville founded in 2016. Julie is a graduate of Georgia Southern University, and Jeffrey is a former employee of the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office.
Gohagan said the owners are planning an extensive renovation to the vacant late-nineties structure. With access from both Northside Drive and East Main Street and ample parking, Gohagan said this building “presents a very attractive opportunity for liquor sales in our City.”
EZ Liquors – 1525 Fair Road, Suite 106-107
Gohagan again took to the podium representing Shree Dhan Laxmi, LLC. Owner Vishakha Patel, a Statesboro resident, plans to open EZ Liquors at 1525 Fair Road, Suites 106-107.
Gohagan noted that Patel and his wife actively participated in public hearings leading up to the drafting and subsequent passing of Ordinance 2022-01, which allows the sale of distilled spirits in Statesboro.
Patel currently operates a liquor store in Tattnall County. “A liquor store in this location would be entirely consistent with the adjoining uses for this plaza,” Gohagan said. Both suites, which are currently vacant, are built out as micro-offices. According to Gohagan, full renovation will be required to retrofit the space to house a liquor store, which includes removing the partition between suites to create “a single consolidated space.”
Additional sites approved at last meeting
These two locations will join the four approved at the last City Council meeting, bringing the total to six approved locations for liquor stores in the City of Statesboro.
Two Northside Drive locations denied
Patriot Liquors – 834 Northside Drive East
Attorney Andrew Lavoie, representing Downside Investment Group , presented a proposed site for Patriot Liquors at 834 Northside Drive East. Lavoie asserted that this site “shines above the competition” as it is larger, currently occupied, and is neatly maintained. Predicting little-to-no environmental impact during the retrofitting process, Lavoie said this building is “ideally situated” to create minimal traffic impact and dual-road access.
Co-owner Daniel Merritt, who briefly addressed Council, is a co-founder of Nine Line Apparel, Inc. Merritt said he has created ten businesses in the last ten years. “I like creating jobs,” he said. “I would love an opportunity to do that right here in Statesboro.”
The building currently houses Pestmaster Services, a pest control business. When asked by Councilwoman and Mayor Pro-Tem Shari Barr what would happen to Pestmaster, Lavoie said that the business is already looking to relocate and would not be forced out of the location.
Whiskey Warehouse – 647 Northside Drive East
Under the same agenda item, local business owner Raymond Driggers proposed 647 Northside Drive East as the future site for Whiskey Warehouse. Driggers said he chose the former Classic Cleaners building as it is currently unoccupied and in need of revitalization. Driggers, who has lived in Statesboro for nearly three decades, also discussed plans to tear down the existing drive-thru at the site to allow for additional parking.
A member of the community, who identified herself as “Emily“, spoke in opposition to the proposed site for Whiskey Warehouse. She presented Council with a dissent petition signed by 24 residents from a nearby neighborhood. “The liquor store would be right at the cusp… of the neighborhood. That presents concerns,” she said. “Most people… would not want to have a liquor store in their backyard. People want to feel safe.”
During Council discussion, Penny read aloud his recommendation to not grant either applicant a site reservation due to, among other concerns, “the general impact on… surrounding areas.” Several Councilmembers voiced agreement, including Councilman Phil Boyum, who raised concerns with both locations’ proximity to nearby transitional housing for recovering substance abusers. “We would do them a disservice by putting a liquor store so close,” he said. “Those are people trying to get their lives back together.”
By unanimous vote, Council voted to accept Penny’s recommendation and deny both applications.
Three South Main Street locations denied
815 South Main, LLC – 815 South Main Street
Gohagan addressed Council once again as a representative of Nick Propps and Robby Bell, two local business owners and GSU graduates. They proposed 815 South Main Street as the future site for a liquor store with a similar name.
Gohagan spoke to the owners’ history of completing numerous renovation projects through downtown Statesboro, specifically along the Blue Mile corridor. The proposed site is a vacant metal building constructed in the 1970’s. Gohagan said his clients are planning an “immediate and dramatic improvement of the property.”
A key factor of this application is the owner’s proposed partnership with Two Guys Beverage and Tobacco, a popular local beer and wine store, to “learn the ropes” of retail store operations and receive guidance for staffing and other operational aspects. Representatives of Two Guys spoke in favor of this proposed site, citing their plans to “bring what you love about Two Guys” to this location.
The County Line – 814 South Main Street
Statesboro residents and owners of the well-known liquor store near the Bulloch-Candler border Pam and Landrum Hodges proposed opening The County Line’s second location at 814 South Main Street.
Lavoie represented the couple and provided Council with three letters of recommendation — one from Candler County Sheriff John Miles; one from Henry Monsees, President and CEO of Savannah Distributing Company; and one from Synovus Bank Division CEO Darron Burnette.
Addressing Council, Pam expressed excitement over opening a second location in Statesboro. Sheriff Miles spoke to the Hodges’ history of compliance with local laws and ordinances, including a 100% passing score on underage sale compliance checks.
House of Booze – 801 South Main Street
Timothy “Bubba” Hunt, a prolific local entrepreneur, applied to reserve 801 South Main Street as the future home of House of Booze. Hunt, who owned and operated Pawn City from 1992-2018, said he has invested significant “sweat and equity” into the community throughout his career.
“My location… is the best location in Statesboro for alcohol,” Hunt said, touting ample parking and multiple access points. “I want to build a destination right there,” he said. “It’s going to be one beautiful store. You can rest assured that, with me attached to it, it’s going to be first-class.”
Penny’s recommendation to Council was to award the location reservation to Hunt, stipulating that the business name would need to be changed. However, members of Council voiced conflicting opinions.
Councilwoman Paulette Chavers expressed tentative support for the 815 South Main location due in-part to their partnership with an existing local business. Councilman John Riggs threw his support behind The County Line.
Councilwoman Venus Mack stated concerns that all proposed locations are along walking paths frequented by students, a sentiment shared by Chavers and Boyum. Mack referenced work sessions leading up to the ordinance passage where Council agreed they didn’t want to see locations too close to student-heavy residential housing.
Upon being prompted for a motion from Council by Mayor Jonathan McCollar, Mack moved to deny all three applications and give applicants 60 days to propose new locations. The motion passed by a 4-1 vote, with Boyum casting the only “nay” vote.
Applications still being accepted
The City is still accepting applications for liquor store location reservations. At this time, there is no timeline for when licenses will be granted. All applications are subject to standard review procedures as outlined in the Code of Ordinances.
There are 22 total applications in process, including the ones mentioned in this story. The next round of applications will be presented to Mayor and Council at their meeting on May 17.
A copy of the application can be downloaded by clicking here or by visiting the City’s website: https://www.statesboroga.gov/departments/city-clerk/tax-and-license-office