Concerns about an overabundance of liquor stores in Lebanon permeated discourse at a Lebanon City Council work session Thursday at City Hall.
Ward 3 Councilor Camille Burdine said she’d heard from many of her constituents who expressed concern that the number of liquor stores in Lebanon was getting out of hand.
“Our citizens care about how many liquor stores we have now,” Burdine said. “If improving the quality of life in Lebanon is our ultimate goal, then we need to establish some standards.”
By City Attorney Andy Wright’s count, there are currently 17 liquor stores in the city. Mt. Juliet has three. Mt. Juliet’s low number is because the city limits the number of liquor stores based on population. It permits one for every 10,000 residents. No such provision exists in Lebanon.
Thanks to the work session, there may be a resolution to enact such limitations on further liquor store applications at next Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
Burdine wasn’t the only councilor concerned about all the package stores. Ward 6 Councilor Jeni Lind Brinkman also issued a statement suggesting enough is enough.
“If we have enough to meet demand, why add more,” she said.
Just how best to implement a policy that would prevent new stores from applying and opening is still up in the air. Councilors at the work session, which also included Ward 2 Councilor Fred Burton and Ward 4 Councilor Chris Crowell, agreed they would like to see something on the agenda by next week. Wright said that if the council waited another month, then another applicant could very well submit paperwork for a new store.
One question is should Lebanon establish a population-based system like Mt. Juliet’s or if it should just establish a cap. The councilors at the work session appeared to be leaning toward establishing a cap and not letting any more into the city.
By Tennessee law, liquor stores have to renew their compliance permits every two years. For those stores already in the city, they would be effectively grandfathered in.
Another Tennessee law, recently passed, according to Wright, is that while limiting the number is permissible, restricting “reasonable access to liquor” in the state is not.
Burdine said that if nothing else, establishing a 1,000-feet minimum between stores would be something she is interested in exploring if legally possible.
The next City Council meeting is 6 p.m. Tuesday at the city’s administrative building.