City council shoots down beer sales at gas stations

Submitted by Carbondale Times on

Geoffrey Ritter
Carbondale Times

In Carbondale, you won’t be able to pick up a case of beer or a bottle of wine at a gas station anytime soon.

At last week’s meeting of the city council, leaders informally shot down a proposal to extend sales of beer and wine to local convenience stores that sell motor fuel, effectively ending the issue for the time being.

A concerted campaign to allow such sales has been underway since 2011, when the council for the first time allowed beer and wine sales at grocery stores. During an hour-long discussion at the council’s Aug. 9 meeting, liquor store owners argued adamantly against the proposed change, while at least one gas station owner argued in favor of it. The conversation was heated at times.

Councilman Lee Fronabarger said he had studied the issue in other Illinois communities and found that while many of them allow beer and wine sales at gas stations, they also have multiple liquor stores that continue to operate.

“Somehow the liquor stores in these other communities have been able to weather the competition,” Fronabarger said. “I don’t know what they did … but they seem to survive.”

Councilman Navreet Kang said expanding the sales might allow others to sell beer and wine, but it would only further carve up a thin piece of the economic pie.

“We want to attract new businesses, but not at the expense of the existing ones,” Kang said.

The discussion followed the council’s revision of its prepared food and beverage tax first passed in June, with the tax now standing at 2 percent instead of the originally approved 4 percent. At the time of the tax’s original passage, the council also approved a 4 percent tax on package liquor sales and a 4-cents-per-gallon tax on motor fuel. All of the new revenues are aimed at paying down pension obligations and funding local improvement projects.

The reduction in the prepared food and beverage tax last week came following objections from the city’s restaurant owners. The council now is looking at a possible .25 percent increase in the overall sales tax to help make up the difference, and a public meeting on the issue is being planned for possibly next month.