Ohio agency looking at spirit sales in Belpre

BELPRE — Belpre may soon have its own access to spirituous liquor sales thanks to the Ohio Department of Commerce’s Division of Liquor Control.

The state agency recently announced it’s accepting applications for 15 to 20 new contract liquor agencies to be established across the state, including one in Washington County within a two-mile radius of the entrance to Kroger on Washington Boulevard.

“Kroger is exploring its options for this opportunity,” said John Lambert, a spokesman for Kroger.

But the applications accepted would not be limited to established stores like the grocery chain.

“The areas opened were identified through market research,” explained Lindsey Berth, a public information officer with the Ohio Department of Commerce. “Our goal here is to roll out 15 to 20 new locations in the next 18 months so we’re advertising with the hopes of obtaining some quality applicants in those areas.”

Berth explained the applicants will still need to meet criteria set out by the state program and will be analyzed on a scoring system which looks at the applicant’s business plan, storage, shelving, wi-fi access and ability to connect with the sales software used by the state.

“In Washington County we only have one contract liquor agency,” she said. “That’s Weber’s Market in Marietta. This is an opportunity for both existing and new businesses to apply and be considered.”

A contract liquor agency acts separately from beer and wine carry-out permits, she explained.

“You’re basically selling our product for a commission,” said Berth. “We send that spirituous liquor stock to the agencies and they sell it and receive a check from us.”

Belpre Mayor Mike Lorentz said he hadn’t heard of the move by the state, but said he welcomed the additional business revenues it could bring to the city.

“I’ve never been in Weber’s but people say it’s nice and with new business that could serve our citizens well,” he said. “It sounds like a pretty good option.”

The deadline to apply for the contract in Belpre is Nov. 29.

Judith Drake, chairwoman of Belpre City Council’s Economic Development and Planning & Zoning Committee, said while she would not see herself frequenting the possible new liquor aisles, there are three ways to look at the opportunity.

“If people are going to buy it, they’re going to go somewhere so why not here?” she said. “You can look at it from a moral aspect, a personal one or from a business aspect. If there’s someone in the community that’s going to step forward with a good business plant to take that on, the city has no control over it, that’s run by the state.”

Both Berth and Lorentz also said other state alcohol regulations would still apply if a new contract liquor agency were allowed into Belpre, namely, that if the proposed agency store is located within 500 feet of a school, church, library, public playground or township park, the division shall notify the institution and provide an opportunity for hearing on the advisability of entering into the contract.


How to Apply

* Interested parties may contact the division’s Agency Operations Section at 614-644-2380 to request an application or go to the division’s website at http://www.com.ohio.gov/liqr/Agency.aspx.

* There is no application fee.

* Applicants must have experience operating a retail business or equivalent experience, and must have sufficient financial resources to establish and manage a retail business.

* Applicants must provide the following minimum requirements:

* 550 linear feet of shelving for displaying spirituous liquor.

* 1,500 square feet of storage space for inventory.

* Computer.

* Point of Sale.

* Point of Sale Integrator.

* Internet/Wi-Fi capability.

* Valid email.

* The successful applicant will meet established division criteria and submit a quality business plan.

* The selected applicant must be able to commence sales operations on a date specified by the division.

* Applications must be received by the division by 4 p.m. on Nov. 29.

Source: Ohio Department of Commerce’s Division of Liquor Control