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Roy L. Williams
Costco Wholesale Corp.
Costco is seeking permission from the Hoover City Council to sell liquor at its store on Galleria Circle.
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Roy L. Williams.
Hoover City Council Aug. 17
John Milledge, lawyer for Costco, spoke at the Aug. 17 Hoover City Council meeting
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Roy L. Williams
Hoover City Council Aug. 17
Dan Ireland, past executive director of Alabama Citizen Action Program (ALCAP), a faith-based group opposed to alcoholic beverage sales, spoke out against Costco's liquor license request.
Patrons of Costco Wholesale Corp. will soon be able to buy liquor at its store on Galleria Circle. The Hoover City Council supported the request with a 4-2 vote, approving Costco's quest to get a liquor license during the council's Monday, Aug. 17 meeting.
Councilman John Lyda made the motion to approve the liquor license request by Costco. He was joined in voting yes by Council President Jack Wright, Councilman John Rives and Councilman Jack Natter. Voting against the measure were Councilman Gene Smith and Councilman John Greene.
The divisive 4-2 vote came after a public hearing in which three people spoke out against the measure on moral grounds. One of them, Rev. Dan Ireland, spent 30 years as executive director of the Alabama Citizens Action Program (ALCAP), a church sponsored organization that opposes liquor sales.
Ireland said he was disappointed in the vote. He said he understands Costco has a right to pursue a liquor license like other businesses, but feels the decision to approve the measure is not good for Hoover.
“My concern is the more alcohol is available, the more it will be consumed and the more it will cause a rise in other events our police officers will have to enforce,” Ireland said. “It is very disturbing to families when alcohol is so available.”
The approval ends a long process that a Costco lawyer says began months ago, when the retailer’s request under the name Costco Wholesale Liquor went before the ABC Board. It won approval July 13 from the Hoover Planning and Zoning Commission.
Brandon Owens of Northport, representing independent retailer liquor licensees across Alabama, asked the council to deny the Costco request, claiming Costco harms small businesses.
“They [Costco] will come in and lower prices,” he said. “In Mobile, they came in and lowered prices below what the ABC stores do and barely making any profit whatsoever. It is open door, anybody can walk in without IDs unlike typical package stores.”
Owens also claimed Hoover’s tax revenue from the sale of liquor will go down as Costco drives down liquor prices among its competitors.
“If this proliferates and more stores have it, your police force will have to spend more time on alcohol enforcement," he said.
John Milledge, a lawyer representing Costco, said Costco has been thoroughly vetted through months of background checks and other reviews by the city and other government agencies “just to get to this point.”
He said Costco will build a separate entrance for the liquor department and ID checking will be thoroughly enforced.
“Our employees are highly trained,” Milledge said. “Costco is a well-run establishment. Some of the comments made here today about liquor tax revenue going down are very speculative. We apply to the same laws as everybody else.”
Hoover City Council President Jack Wright said the council legally couldn’t turn down the Costco request compared to other businesses without a legitimate reason.
“There are no complaints of illegal activity by Costco,” Wright said. “They are a good corporate citizen, we’ve had no problems with them nor do we anticipate any.”
Milledge, the Birmingham lawyer for Costco said he was pleased with the vote.
“We’ve been through months of license submittals to the state of Alabama, public safety and zoning boards in Hoover,” he said. “Management of Costco has gone through extensive background checks. Employees background checks and employee training as well. Because of our size, our policies and procedures are much more extensive than the smaller stores.”
Milledge said Costco has “everything in place” to ensure it doesn’t sell to underage drinkers and operates the liquor business properly.
“We understand that for whatever reason — religious or family — some people don’t want to be near it so this area of the store will have a separate entrance,” he said. “We’ve had a license to sell beer and wine for years. Now this is an additional product we can offer our customers.”
Despite the liquor license approval, Milledge said it could still be months before liquor is sold at the Galleria Circle Costco.
“We have to do build-out of that area of the store,” he said. “We didn’t want to spend time and money on engineering until we knew we’d have a license. Now that we know we have a license, that will proceed. We have to do engineering drawings, architecture. Once the space is built out, there will be more inspections by the city like any other commercial business before we can begin to sell. The approval of the council allows us to move forward.”
Hoover Mayor Gary Ivey said Costco has the same rights as any other company that goes before the city requesting a liquor license. He said the company has a strong reputation for operating a quality business, and noted that Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis told the council during the meeting they have not received any complaints about the business.
“I look at it as free enterprise,” Ivey said. “We try to be business friendly. Our legal counsel advised us that if we had turned them down they would have appealed to the ABC Board and been approved. Again this is free enterprise and the little guy will just have to work harder to compete.”
Also during the Aug. 17 meeting, the Hoover City Council:
- Denied all three bids for improvements to Alford Avenue and a realignment project on Shadybrook Lane, including the low bid of $496,087.40 submitted by Walker Patton Co. Ben Powell of the City of Hoover Purchasing Department told the council that all of the bids “significantly exceeds the cost estimates and allocated funds for the project.”
- Approved a bid of $99,198 with Barge Waggoner Sumner & Cannon Inc. to upgrade street lighting on U.S. 31 from the north end of the bridge over the Cahaba River to the Patton Chapel Road intersection north of the I-459 interchange. Lighting along the 9,500 feet of roadway will be replaced with LED lights that use less energy and cost the city less to operate, city officials said.
- Held a public hearing then approved MaxxClean Car Wash to be built at 2875 John Hawkins Parkway.
- Held a public hearing before approving a request for Benton Nissan to rezone property at 3316 Old Columbiana Road from commercial to community business district for the purpose of adding an overflow parking lot for the dealership.