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City mulling new liquor store site

WORTHINGTON -- A new municipal liquor store location that would replace the current Diagonal Road site could be a possibility should the Worthington City Council opt to move such a project forward.

During their Monday night meeting, council members heard a presentation from McComb Group Ltd. of Minneapolis, which the city hired to conduct market analysis to examine potential for a new liquor store in Worthington.

City Administrator Craig Clark said Tuesday that the city, according to data prepared by McComb, is missing out on as much as $3.6 million over a five-year period because of its current liquor store location.

"We defined the trade area for the liquor store, and the households within the trade area have 'x' amount of money to spend on liquor store purchases, based on data from the U.S. Census," Jim McComb explained Tuesday by phone.

While many Worthington residents may be aware of the liquor store's location, many traveling into the community may not, McComb indicated. He said a map he obtained of the city included directions from various motels in the community to the store.

"I've never seen a map having directions to the local liquor store," McComb said. "A liquor store should be in proximity to the 100 percent corner -- that main intersection in the community. We've determined the store could increase its market share with a more visible and convenient location."

Clark said Tuesday that a new -- and almost certainly larger -- liquor store in a different location has the potential to significantly benefit the city's tax base.

"What's important to recognize is that (revenue from the municipal liquor store) is an enterprise fund," Clark said. "Our liquor fund, with the transfer it makes to the general fund, we'd have to increase our levy by about 7.25 percent without it.

"We want to help the general fund," Clark continued. "There are a whole lot of things that come into the equation. ... We're trying to look at the liquor store as an enterprise and running it as a business first and foremost, but it's also there as a profit center for the community. We wouldn't be doing our job from a staff perspective if we didn't bring this proposal forward."

Clark noted that while the McComb report "doesn't say that our store doesn't work from a physical standpoint," there are some concerns about the Diagonal Road site. While the Worthington store "is the regional store of choice," he said, growth in the demand of craft beer is an example of one area that could be improved upon with a new building.

Six potential new locations are outlined in the McComb report: Ryan's Road, immediately east of the Walmart Supercenter; a site either the northeast or southeast corner of ShopKo's parking lot; a site next to McDonald's, a property in the 1200 block of Oxford Street now occupied by a single-family home; the corner of Oxford Street and Burlington Avenue; and the corner of Oxford Street and Grand Avenue. The study ranks the SkopKo southeast corner site as the most preferable.

Clark said that he believes authority from the state level will lessen over time, allowing the city to potentially to sell its municipal liquor store if such a transaction is desired.

"We would have an asset to sell if the future council asks us to do so," he said. "But now ... we're missing out on convenient shopping ... and we're missing out on the regional shopper. It's a little bit akin to the regional sales tax. We're not only looking at those patronizing locally ... but also from around the region."

Ryan McGaughey

I first joined the Daily Globe in April 2001 as sports editor. I later became the news editor in November 2002, and the managing editor in August 2006. I'm originally from New York State, and am married with two children.

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