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RACINE — The possibility of Save A Lot returning to Elmwood Plaza Shopping Center, 3701 Durand Ave., looks less likely as the company was unable to secure a class A liquor license.

The Common Council voted Tuesday, July 18, six to five against exceeding the city’s liquor license quota. To exceed the quota would require a two-thirds vote of the council.

Jay Walia, who manages the Elmwood Plaza where Save A Lot was located, attended the public hearing held Tuesday before the vote.

He told the council he is working to revitalize Elmwood Plaza, making significant investments in the endeavor, and the reopening of Save A Lot to serve as the anchor store was integral to his plans.

Walia is working with Save A Lot to reopen the store; though, the company expressed reservations because the store was underperforming to the point the company decided to close it.

The class A liquor license was necessary because with it they could anticipate a 5% increase in sales and without it, the project would not be financially viable, Walia explained.

Health of the community

Alderman Mary Land, who represents the district, advocated for the reopening and noted what a positive thing it would be for the area to have Elmwood Plaza thriving again.

She said only one person contacted her with concerns, but when they heard the liquor license would go toward reopening Save A Lot, they changed their position and supported the proposal.

Land attempted to have the matter sent back to the Public Safety & Licensing Committee, but that vote failed, and she could not rally the support of two-thirds of the council.

Alderman Melissa Kaprelian spoke out against exceeding the quota, saying, “Right now, the city of Racine is over-saturated with liquor.”

She said high rates of alcohol use in the city have led to other problems, such as homelessness, and it has a negative effect on those suffering from mental health issues.

“There’s a reason for the quota,” she said and added the health of the community had to take priority.

Exceeding the limit

The city of Racine has a limit of 24 class A liquor licenses for retail stores. However, because the council has voted previously to exceed the quota, there are 26 stores with a class A liquor license, and an additional license would put the city three over quota.

There was a secondary issue, which was the geographic restriction set by the city. City ordinance prohibits a new liquor license for a retail establishment if there is an existing business with a class A liquor license within a 1,000-foot radius.

There are four such establishments within 1,000 feet of Save A Lot: Piggly Wiggly Supermarket, 4003 Durand Ave., Colonial Liquors, 2809 Taylor Ave., Andy’s on Durand, 3818 Durand Ave., and Durand Mart, 3900 Durand Ave.

In order to exceed the quota and/or the geographic restriction, the applicant must show: 1) the proposed establishment would have an impact on the community rather than just being another tavern, liquor store, convenience store, or restaurant, or 2) It would substantially improve the tax base.

Improving the tax base was defined as rehabilitating a structure in a state of deterioration, constructing a new building on vacant land, or benefiting the community in other tangible ways.

Elmwood Plaza and Save A Lot

Walia attempted to meet the impact requirement by pointing out all the benefits to the community that would come from both the Save A Lot and revitalization of Elmwood Plaza.

He spoke about the importance of access to affordable groceries/produce and what that would mean to the area’s residents.

The reopening of the grocery store to serve as an anchor for the plaza would also benefit the community because it would encourage other businesses to open in the plaza, which has been struggling for years.

He claimed there are businesses interested in retail space within the plaza, but they were waiting to see how the situation with Save A Lot worked out.

However, affordable groceries and the potential revitalization of the Elmwood Plaza was not enough to overcome the reservations some members of the council had to yet another liquor license in the area; though, they were sympathetic to Walia’s position.

Alderman Kaprelian responded, “It’s sickening to me that Save A Lot is putting that restriction on (the reopening).”

They are willing to reopen the store, she noted, so long as they get what they want: the liquor license.

For her part, the answer to that was no.

“It creates consequences to the individual, families, and the community,” she said and added the company that owns that Save A Lot is not actually located in Racine and will not have to grapple with those consequences.

The aldermen who voted in opposition to exceeding the quota were: Melissa Kaprelian, Marcus West, Sam Peete, Henry Perez, Renee Kelly, and Cory Sebastian.

The aldermen who voted in favor of exceeding the quota were: Mollie Jones, Olivia Turquoise Davis, Jeffrey Peterson, Mary Land, and Alicia Jarrett.

Four aldmerman were absent: Jeff Coe, Amanda Paffrath, Maurice Horton, and Terry McCarthy.

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