RHINELANDER - When you look around a gas station in Rhinelander, you might notice something is missing – beer.|
Beer can be sold in most gas stations and convenience stores around the state, but the city of Rhinelander doesn’t allow it.
Tonight, Rhinelander City Council could take a step toward changing that.
"This is the gateway. This is where every single vehicle passes through for country fest," said Aries Tatrow, who manages Hodag Pump and Pantry and the corner of Stevens Street and County Road W.
Between 8,000 and 9,000 people come into his store every day during Country Fest, many of them looking for beer.
For the second time in three years, Rhinelander city council is considering allowing gas stations to sell beer.
"I think that there's a legitimate beef on behalf of some of the convenience store owners," said alderman Alex Young. "They are locked out of that area of business now, where in all of the surrounding communities in the state, they have been able to do that."
Young said Kwik Trip would locate two or three stores within city limits if beer sales were allowed.
"It was mentioned at the [city council] meeting that should the city not get rid of that rule, that Kwik Trip could locate just outside the city limits," he said.
That would mean the city will lose out on tax revenue, but Lincoln Street Liquor store owner John Stein said he'll lose his entire business.
"There isn't a city out there with our comparable population that has alcohol in gas stations that has a stand-alone liquor store," Stein said. "The odds are virtually zero that I will be able to survive if this ordinance goes through."
The Oneida County Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Coalition reports that compared to the rest of the state, Oneida County has a higher number of liquor licenses per capita.
Stein said even more licenses could lead to problems like alcohol being sold to minors.
"The city council, their job is to regulate that number," he said. "I don't think there is a need for more, there's definitely not a constituency out there asking for more beer outlets."
"I have two daughters at home, I don't want them coming into a gas station and being able to buy alcohol," said Tatro. "That's not even an option. We're regulated and we follow rules to a tee."
City council will vote on the ordinance tomorrow night.
If it goes forward, a public hearing will be held January 14th.