J & P Flash Market owner Oscar Patterson said he and partner Dwayne Jones are losing business daily and the city is missing out on sales tax because they cannot sell beer at their Bobcat Station store on Highway 142, just east of the Highway 63 junction.
"We have so many people walking out of that building every day because we don't have beer," Patterson told the board. "They leave. They don't buy a dollar's worth of gasoline or a bag of chips, nothing."
Patterson said he and Jones thought when they bought Bobcat Station in July they could make a profit by being competitive with gas prices. Instead, people buy gas where they can buy beer, he said.
State statutes limit the sale of intoxicating liquor within 100 feet of schools, churches or other places of religious worship; Thayer Ordinance 600.033 sets the distance at 250 feet.
Bobcat Station is less than 250 feet from at least one home and a church.
Mayor Earl "Buddy" Rogers told Patterson the board could still grant Bobcat Station a liquor license if Patterson gets written consent from all homes, businesses and churches within 250 feet of the store. Thayer schools are outside of the boundary.
Patterson said he knows his store is too close to the Church of Christ at 219 feet, which is measured from building to building rather than property line.
"I know. I measured it," Rogers said.
City codes state the applicant must present a petition "signed by at least 75 percent of all who have ownership interests or tenancies of one year or longer in any real property within 600 feet" of the business in a residential district. Bobcat Station property abuts residential property.
The ordinance further states that for businesses within 250 feet of churches, the applicant must get written consent from the Board of Aldermen.
"Such consent shall not be granted until at least 10 days' written notice has been provided to all owners of property within 250 feet" of the proposed premises, according to city codes.
The ordinance does not state the applicant must get signatures from churches or schools within the 250-foot boundary in a business district.
Rogers said Patterson would need consent from the residence, Church of Christ and McDonald's restaurant.
"What if there is one that didn't let me do it?" Patterson asked. "If four say 'yes' and one says 'no,' is that something we could work with?"
Alderman Mike Harber said he interpreted the ordinance to require Patterson to get three-fourths of residents to agree.
"The ordinance says 'all property owners,'" Rogers said.
Rogers told Patterson to create a petition and bring signatures back to the board.
Alderman Bob Freeman asked Patterson if he could simply refer people to his other store down Highway 63.
Patterson said people generally will shop at the closest store.
The city ordinance limits the number of licenses issued, with no more than one license per class for each 800 residents tallied on the most recent U.S. census. Thayer's population in 2000 was 2,201, the most recent data available.
Based on population, the city may issue two package-liquor licenses. Ray-Noble Liquor Store and Discount Liquor and Tobacco now have licenses to sell packaged liquor in Thayer.
The city also has issued licenses for two resorts, one for consumption on property and one club (the Alton-Thayer Elks Lodge).
Patterson said he and Jones sell packaged beer and liquor at their convenience store on South Highway 63, which is "wide open" with outdoor advertisements. If approved, Bobcat Station would have no outside signs, he said.
Customers would only know Bobcat Station sells beer if they came inside the store, he said. The store also would sell only beer, not liquor.
"The only customer I'm after is the guy who is in the store already and asks me for it," Patterson said.
Sales tax income
As the board discussed the issue, resident Lonnie Mills asked to speak.
"You'd better think how many dollars we're going to lose on city taxes right there if you don't let him have that," Mills said from the back of the room. "That's lots of dollars right there."
Earls suggested the board table the issue until he speaks with City Attorney Jeri Leigh Caskey about whether the city can issue another license and waive the distance requirement.
Earls then advised Patterson to talk to his neighbors and return later to the board.