Upper Arlington News

Council rejects Giant Eagle liquor license bid

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The Ohio Division of Liquor Control will determine if the Giant Eagle Market District at Kingsdale Center will become a state liquor store after Upper Arlington City Council this week objected to the proposal.

Although no council members stated outright opposition to Upper Arlington having two state liquor stores within one mile of each other, they did vote on Monday, May 12, to reject a request by Giant Eagle to enable its local Market District to have carryout sales of spirituous liquor.

The vote was 5-0, with council President Don Leach absent and Councilman Erik Yassenoff abstaining because he said he interacts with the Ohio Division of Liquor Control through his job as assistant director of policy for asset management in the Ohio Governor's Office.

Now the matter will go before the Division of Liquor Control, which is expected to schedule a public hearing in the near future. No date had been set by ThisWeek's press time.

If the Division of Liquor Control grants the permit, Giant Eagle would join Huffman's Market as Upper Arlington's only state liquor agencies.

Chuck Marangoni, Giant Eagle's director of real estate strategy and acquisitions, said the Ohio Division of Liquor Control is considering the local Market District's permit because it is one of the few area businesses with adequate space to be a "mega" agency.

Marangoni said the Upper Arlington Giant Eagle draws customers regionally, and if a permit is granted, the store would become a mega agency that could sell any brand and type of liquor that's legally offered in Ohio.

"That requires a large agency that has a lot of capacity for storage," he said. "Fifty-five percent of customers come from outside Upper Arlington, satisfying the regional draw that the state is looking for."

Shamus Cassidy, an attorney for Huffman's Market, countered by saying Upper Arlington will not see significant population growth and does not need another state liquor agency when there already are ones near the city's boundaries with Columbus at the intersection of Bethel and Sawmill roads, as well as on Fifth Avenue in Grandview.

Councilman Mike Schadek said he wanted a hearing to allow for input from all sides of the issue.

"I think this is a huge change for Upper Arlington," he said. "It's going to affect all residents and all businesses, not just Huffman's.

"I want to hear from the residents and businesses."

In a staff report to council, City Attorney Jeanine Hummer said the city received notice April 23 that Giant Eagle, which currently sells beer and wine at its Market District store at Kingsdale, seeks to sell carryout liquor.

She said a hearing before the Division of Liquor Control would provide a forum for people to object to or support the request for a liquor agency contract sought by the Tamarkin Co., Giant Eagle's parent company.

At Monday's council meeting, the proposal pitted Giant Eagle against Huffman's Market, 2140 Tremont Center, which currently is the only state liquor agency in the city.

Huffman's Market became a state liquor agency in April 2004, after approximately 85 percent of local voters approved a liquor option sought by owner Tim Huffman.

That vote also made Huffman's the first business in Ohio that was permitted to sell liquor on Sundays.

In asking council to object to Giant Eagle's request, Huffman's Market General Manager Ryan Huffman said permitting Giant Eagle to sell liquor less than a mile away could threaten the livelihoods of his parents, Tim and Glenda Huffman, and the market's 47 employees.

He added that Huffman's Market is a locally owned business that is committed to the Upper Arlington and Tri-Village communities, as evidenced by the store's support of local schools and civic projects.

"Our friends down the street," Ryan Huffman said referring to Giant Eagle, "they know your names because they look at you as dollar signs. We do not. We look at you as friends.

"We need Upper Arlington to stand by our business at this time. These guys here, they're from Pittsburgh, Pa."

David Raber, a Columbus attorney representing Giant Eagle, said council had no grounds on which to object because it couldn't establish that a liquor permit at Giant Eagle would substantially affect public safety in the community.

"I haven't heard any evidence of that tonight," Raber said.

Jodell Maclean of Summerford Road came forward at the council meeting to speak on behalf of Huffman's Market.

"I'm here supporting the Huffman family and their support of the Upper Arlington community," Maclean said. "They are unselfish and will give wholeheartedly to any cause, any effort, anything. You just have to ask.

"They truly have Upper Arlington's best interests at heart. They're not a large corporation that it's clearly for revenue for their own pockets."

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