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First retail liquor store opens in Belpre

Kroger partners with OHLQ on business

From left, Belpre Area Chamber of Commerce member Jessica Walters; Lorraine Terry, senior director of Jobs Ohio Beverage System; Gerry O’Neill, director of agency operations for the Ohio Division of Liquor Control; Belpre Mayor Mike Lorentz; chamber Executive Director Karen Waller and Bob Davis, vice president of merchandising for Kroger’s Mid-Atlantic Division, share a laugh as pictures are taken following Thursday’s ribbon-cutting at the new Kroger OHLQ retail liquor store in Belpre. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

BELPRE — State and local officials attended the ribbon-cutting Thursday morning for the first retail liquor store in Belpre.

In partnership with the Ohio Division of Liquor Control and the JobsOhio Beverage System, Kroger opened an OHLQ store near its main location off Washington Boulevard. Like the addition of other alcohol sales in the city, the operation first had to be approved by voters.

“The citizens said they wanted it. They voted that it would be OK to be here,” said Bob Davis, vice president of merchandising for Kroger’s Mid-Atlantic Division.

Voters in the 1-B precinct voted in favor of the proposal by a nearly 2-to-1 margin.

The OHLQ site adds four jobs to Kroger’s workforce in Belpre.

Kroger customer service representative Amanda Holman, left, and Miller Prosthetics and Orthotics co-owner Mark Miller share a laugh as Miller checks out at the new Kroger OHLQ retail liquor store that opened Thursday in the Kroger shopping plaza on Washington Boulevard in Belpre. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

“It’s exciting every time we open a small business,” Mayor Mike Lorentz said. “It’s a few jobs, but it’ll be tax growth to the city and it’s a reason to stop in Belpre.”

Belpre Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Karen Waller said Kroger is a hub of activity for the community and draws people from outside the city as well.

“If ever you want to see someone in Belpre, Ohio, you come to Kroger,” she said.

It’s the first OHLQ location for Kroger’s Mid-Atlantic Division, which mainly includes West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina. It’s the 79th overall for Kroger in the Buckeye State, said Gerry O’Neill, director of agency operations for the Ohio Division of Liquor Control.

There are nearly 500 OHLQ locations statewide. The division announced it was accepting applications for the Belpre market in 2017 as it was looking to expand its footprint by 20 locations. O’Neill said the new areas were identified by demographic data and sales projections. All those selected were projected to be able to eventually generate $1 million in sales annually.

From left, Belpre Area Chamber of Commerce member Jessica Walters; Lorraine Terry, senior director of Jobs Ohio Beverage System; Gerry O’Neill, director of agency operations for the Ohio Division of Liquor Control; Belpre Mayor Mike Lorentz; chamber Executive Director Karen Waller and Bob Davis, vice president of merchandising for Kroger’s Mid-Atlantic Division, prepare for the ribbon to be cut on the new Kroger OHLQ retail liquor store in Belpre Thursday. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

Kroger began selling beer and wine in Belpre in 2010. The high-proof spiritous liquor products sold at OHLQ are owned by the JobsOhio Beverage System (J.O.B.S.), a nonprofit corporation affiliated with JobsOhio. JobsOhio is a nonprofit economic development corporation funded by the profits from J.O.B.S.

The Ohio Division of Liquor Control manages retail and wholesale operations for the sale of spiritous liquor. Pricing is set by a statutorily defined formula.

The Belpre OHLQ is open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Evan Bevins can be reached at ebevins@newsandsentinel.com

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