North Texas Daily

The possibility of liquor in Denton

The possibility of liquor in Denton

The possibility of liquor in Denton
June 13
12:59 2014

Will Darnell / Managing Editor and Tyler Owens / Contributing Writer

Instead of having to drive more than seven miles to small towns, or join private clubs at local bars, Dentonites could soon be able to purchase hard liquor for home use in the city limits.

In the wake of cities like Plano and Arlington passing measures allowing the sale of alcohol, Denton could become the third major DFW area city as early as November.

Currently, a team from the city is exploring the option after many years of residents clamoring for the hard stuff, Denton city council member Kevin Roden said.

“There’s a lot of interest on a number of levels. Those folks that own those bars want to get out of that regulation of being a private club, but we also realize that there’s a lot of our tax dollars going to some of these small communities around the city for folks who are going and buying liquor because they can’t buy it in the town,” Roden said. “So there’s an interest in saying, ‘how do we retain those tax dollars in our city, make it easier for our existing bar owners to be able to serve their customers and our economy wins as a result.”

Right now, Denton is what’s known as a “moist” area, which means beer and wine are sold for home use at storefronts like Kroger or Midway Mart on Hickory Street, and hard liquor is only sold in bars to customers who “swipe in” and sign a receipt-like contract joining a social club.

Roden is optimistic that like Plano, which estimates the tax impact at more than $500,000, bringing liquor to Denton would create a tax windfall. However, the potential decision is not expected to bring many jobs with it.

Although most of the response Roden has personally received, in conversation and on social media, has been largely positive, there are potential pitfalls.

“But there’s been some concerns for some people, and I think concern is reasonable,” Roden said. “The concern is you’re going to have a liquor store on every corner, are they going to be encroaching on our neighborhoods, what does that create for the people coming into our town to buy liquor.”

To alleviate some of that concern, Roden pointed to the carefully worded zoning regulations the city already has in place.

If liquor stores were to freely open up shop in Denton, there could be an effect on the out-of-town stores open now. Currently, students and residents can drive to Corral City on I-35W, or down state highway 380 or to Highland Village to visit Buckeye Liquor, which is owned by mega store Goody Goody for their liquor needs.

“It’s definitely going to change our way of business, whereas none of the other cities [have changed anything],” said Michael Collins, manager of Paradise Liquor in Corral City. “Even Arlington, I mean that’s a huge town, but I don’t get that much business from Arlington. If Arlington goes wet, no big deal. But Denton, I can attribute about 80 percent of all my business to Denton, so obviously if that goes wet we are going to have to change our day-to-day operations by doing something.”

Collins, while acknowledging his stake in the issue, said he didn’t think dentonites would be happy for too long if the city decided to go “wet.”

“I also don’t think it’s going to be good because Denton is real good about trying to promote locally, keep things small and not have huge chains,” Collins said. “But in this business, those ‘mom and pops’ are just not going to be able to compete with a Spec’s, a Total [Wine] or a Goody Goody, and they’re not going to be open for more than a year.”

Collins said he envisions lots of the smaller liquor stores opening up with hopes of quick riches, only to have them disappointed by the reality of the business.

“All those 19 ‘mom and pop’ stores that opened up, by the end of the year, they’re going to be closed,” Collins said. “And you’re going to have one or two major chains that are going to dictate pricing to everybody.”

David Felan, who manages Buckeye Liquor in Lake Dallas (owned by Goody Goody), echoed Collins sentiment.

“At first, yeah, any ‘mom and pop’ store that decides to open up will do really well right off the bat because it’s the only game in town or there’s a limited game in town,” Felan said. “They’ll be leaching a lot of that business. But then once the bigger chains go in, they won’t be able to compete with price and that sort of thing.”

Felan said he isn’t overly concerned about the prospect of Denton going “wet” though, estimating that his ideal location on I-35 heading toward Dallas would keep sales losses to about 20 percent. Whether or not that 20 percent will be enough to see Buckeye move up the road from its “well-established” location, Felan said time would tell.

The situation in Denton could play out like Plano, where Goody Goody declined to open up a new store after a cost benefit analysis proved it wasn’t worth it, Felan said. Even if it’s not Goody Goody, Felan and Collins both said they expect a mega store to move into the Denton market at some point.

“It’s a good idea at first, but I wouldn’t do it as a long-term investment,” Felan said. “I wouldn’t open a ‘mom and pop’ if Denton goes wet.”

[colored_box color=grey] A MUSIC TOWN

Denton, while always a town with a large music scene, is a burgeoning festival town. Festivals like 35 Denton, Canned and many other start-up festivals have tested the market in the past year or two.

While most of these festivals have seen success, both in terms of attendance and quality, one issue that has hampered them is the “private club” provision that requires all venues selling alcohol to have all patrons “swipe in.”

During normal business hours, swiping your ID and signing a small receipt is not much of a hassle, but when thousands of guests are in the city for a festival, lines can back up quickly. Denton city council member Kevin Roden sees an end to that trouble with Denton becoming a “wet” town.

“That’s crazy, and when you’re in Austin you don’t have to do that,” Roden said.”So just removing that provision, they’d no longer have to be private clubs, and that means our music scene benefits automatically because now getting into clubs and venues, especially in a festival format is going to be much easier.”

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Featured Image: An entire aisle inside Total Wine & More is home to hundreds of whiskey bottles. The new wine and spirits store opened on May 28 and is located in Lewisville near the Vista Ridge Mall. Photo by Edward Balusek, Visuals Editor. 

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