City Mulls C-Store Liquor-License Ban

Alleges stores are magnets for loitering, fighting, other crimes

MOBILE, Ala. -- Responding to pressure from residents opposed to the proliferation of convenience stores that build their business around the sales of beer and wine, the Prichard, Ala., City Council is considering a moratorium on certain alcohol licenses, according to a report in the Press-Register.

Council members voted this month to have their attorney explore the legality of a temporary halt to the issuance of new and transferred off-site beer and wine licenses.

In Prichard’s grittier neighborhoods, as in struggling communities across Alabama, corner stores do a brisk trade in single beers and "Rosy with a skirt," slang for Wild Irish Rose, a down-market wine, sold in a paper sack.

Convenience-store owners say those sales are a vital part of their business plan, and that they wouldn’t be able to turn a profit but for the alcohol trade.

The stores are also important to the city’s financial viability.

Convenience stores with gasoline stations have accounted for 10.6% of sales tax revenue in the city since the beginning of the fiscal year, Rex Williams, the finance director, told the newspaper. Smaller convenience stores that operate without selling gas, which the city lumps in with grocery stores, were not included in that figure, so the total share of sales tax provided by convenience stores is probably slightly higher, he said.

Some residents, though, say that the convenience stores cause more problems than they are worth, and criticize them as magnets for loitering, fights, public urination and even more serious crimes, such as prostitution and drug sales.

The United Concerned Citizens of Prichard, a community action group, has recently shown organized opposition to new licenses and license transfers during hearings that the City Council holds before recommending any licensee for approval, according to the report.

By allowing more convenience stores to come in, the council is "feeding into our weakness instead of recognizing the weakness," Severia Campbell Morris, a founder of the group, said during a recent hearing. "We are pleading to the City Council to take a stand on this. There are some things we can't control, but what you can control, you should control."

Mayor Ron Davis said he opposes a moratorium.