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Changes Ahead for Texas Businesses That Sell Spirits

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Approval of beer and wine sales will mean changes for local businesses and spending habits of consumers who have been traveling outside the county to buy alcohol for more than 70 years.

Businesses across the county line and relatively new markets in Smith County towns, such as Winona and Troup, will likely experience negative effects while businesses in Tyler and Justice of the Peace Precinct 2 expect to expand and benefit.

A.J. Johnson, owner of A.J.'s Place in Troup, which began as a cigarette shack and now sells beer, wine and liquor, said it's too early to figure margins and percentages regarding how legalization of beer and wine sales in Tyler and Precinct 2 will affect him. But he said he doesn't expect losses to be severe.

"My business doesn't just rely on beer, so I don't think it will hurt us much," he said. "We'll still have liquor and the coldest beer in the county, so I think customers will continue to buy here."

Officials in Coffee City, which straddles Texas Highway 155 on Lake Palestine along the Henderson-Smith county line, said the introduction of beer and wine sales to Tyler would not be as detrimental as the precinct going wet, based on proximity.

Mayor Tony Moore said city sales tax revenues will take a hit, but he does not expect beer and wine sales in Tyler to break the town.

Moore said calculations showed a 2 percent to 4 percent drop in sales tax revenues after towns such as Jacksonville and Troup began selling beer, wine and liquor. The city received $337,335 in sales tax revenue last year, according to state comptroller data.

Complete but unofficial results Tuesday show voters approved Proposition 2 in Tyler, which will legalize beer and wine sales for off-premise consumption within city limits, 66.55 percent to 33.45 percent. In JP Precinct 2, beer and wine sales passed 16,695 votes to 8,850 votes, or 65.36 percent to 34.64 percent.

Officials said it would be 45-60 days before six packs and wine will be on store shelves in Tyler and JP Precinct 2.

Johnson said he will monitor the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission's website, which posts license applicants. He said knowing the location and size of the business that applies will give him a better idea about an impact to his business.

More businesses "just spreads (sales) out more," he said.

City of Tyler spokeswoman Susan Guthrie said the city is expecting more than 100 applications for permits. She said businesses had already been making inquiries about the process.

Bullard City Manager Larry Morgan said he expects passage in JP Precinct 2 to spread sales and sales tax revenue, too. He said he expects existing businesses to apply for beer and wine permits, but he doesn't expect big gains for the city.

Morgan said the city does not expect a windfall of tax revenues because "Every convenience store between here and Tyler will sell." He said the city could see a temporary bump in revenues from businesses expanding their stores to accommodate beer and wine.

The Bullard Brookeshire's store would likely see the most benefit, Morgan said, because it draws shoppers from around the area.

Rebecca Sanders, director of public relations for Brookshire Grocery Co., said Brookshire's is in the process of obtaining proper permits to sell beer and wine in its Brookshire's, Super 1 Foods and FRESH by Brookshire's stores.

"With Proposition 2 passing, the citizens of Tyler and Precinct 2 have indicated they would like to have the opportunity to purchase beer and wine for off-premise consumption," Ms. Sanders said in a statement. "Upon certification of the various elections, BGC will submit applications for the permits to offer these products in our stores where Proposition 2 passed ..."

Plans are for the products to be available to customers soon after the permits are approved for BGC, she said, but there may be delays because the 45-60 day typical permitting timeline falls within the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday schedule.

She said the company's category-management team, which is responsible for product assortment, pricing and in-store layout, is working with each store's schematics and equipment needs. They also are working to determine varieties to be carried in each store based on store size and other factors.

FRESH by Brookshire's, on Old Jacksonville Highway, plans to operate with two licenses. The store currently has an RM license for Restaurant, Food and Beverage, and will offer single serve alcoholic beverages for on-site consumption limited to the coffee, gelato and patio areas.

"Once the additional license is obtained, the store will offer packaged beer and wine for off-premise consumption," Ms. Sanders said. "FRESH will offer an expanded variety of products including craft beers and a larger selection of wines at varying price points."

While Brookeshire's and other local businesses have begun preparing to sell beer and wine, others hadn't made any decisions.

"Because of our great location, we're going to weigh all of our options," Billy DeLong said of his Blue Store on Texas Highway 155 in near Noonday. "We haven't made a decision (whether to sell beer and wine) at this time."

Crystal McAnally, store manager at the Walgreens at 1620 S. Broadway Ave., said, "Essentially our plan will revolve around what corporate has planned."

She said Walgreens already has a lot of stores that sell beer and wine in other cities, and she expects the four stores in Tyler will offer the same varieties they do. Ms. McAnally said space in a cooler with double facing doors will be devoted to stock beer for sale, while wine will be offered at room temperature in Aisle 9, along with the sodas, juices and other drinks.

Walgreens spokesman Robert Elfinger said he didn't have any specific information on the Tyler stores. He said there are more than 5,000 Walgreens that sell beer and wine.

Chelsea Rogers, a Target employee, said, "There are no details yet," on beer and wine sales at the Tyler store. She said they have not yet been informed if the local store will sell beer and wine.

Steve Tucker, general manager of the Walmart Supercenter on Troup Highway, said, "I don't have any information on that," regarding plans for beer and wine sales for the three Tyler Walmart Supercenters. "I'm not privy to that. We're in the holiday phase right now and trying to take care of our customers."

Corporate media relations for Walmart, Target and CVS Pharmacy did not return voice messages seeking comment on Wednesday.

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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