Letter: Prohibition on selling alcohol in gas stations not needed by Alex Young
In January, the city will hold a hearing on lifting the prohibition on gas stations selling alcohol.
There are two arguments I’ve heard against lifting the prohibition: First, that it could contribute to underage drinking and alcoholism. At committee, I asked Police Chief Steffes for his honest opinion. Every community he’s previously worked in (and the majority of the state) doesn’t have this prohibition. From what I gather, he believes pretty strongly that it’s not an issue. I agree. There’s currently a gas station just outside city limits that enjoys freedom from this prohibition with no ill effects. All the communities surrounding us (and pretty much the rest of Wisconsin) get by just fine without this restriction.
The second, and in my opinion, the “real” argument here, is that allowing this will hurt existing businesses. I honestly think there are market niches either type of business caters to better. Both can succeed. Nevertheless, I accept there could possibly be some impact, however minor. We heard these exact same arguments when Trig’s opened Cellar 70, again when a of couple coffee shops asked permission to sell wine. I’m sympathetic to small businesses, and respect there’s another side to this, but if protecting a couple of businesses from competition is the only real reason for Rhinelander keeping this on the books I don’t feel it’s the city’s place to use its powers for what boils down to simple protectionism. It’s a fact that being an island in this respect is confusing to folks passing through, accustomed to the other 99 percent of Wisconsin, who may want to resupply before heading fishing, to the cabin, hunting, or to Country Fest. Because of that, there is a likelihood of incremental gains, not just splitting the local pie smaller.
Over the couple years since this last arose, there’s been intermittent talk of revisiting it. Kwik Trip looking at Rhinelander happened at an opportune time, but this isn’t just for their benefit. Kwik Trip is a great Wisconsin company, running a good business. Obviously, these aren’t high-paying white collar or manufacturing jobs, nor is this the silver bullet to rescue Rhinelander’s economy. It is potentially two to three locations at what I’m told is 20 jobs per-without bending backwards giving incentives or tax breaks. I’ve been inundated with calls, talking with others. They are mostly getting the same response: the vast majority are in favor of allowing it.
Alex Young, Rhinelander