Hearing set July 30 on license for proposed liquor store at Wegmans

A third, and potentially final, hearing has been scheduled for July 30 on a liquor license for a store that would sell beer, wine and hard liquor from leased space on the second floor of the Columbia Wegmans.

The county Alcohol Beverage Hearing Board has requested the store's principal owner, Christopher O'Donnell, of New York, appear at the hearing to answer questions regarding his role in the store's operations. The hearing will be held at 6 p.m. in the George Howard Building of Ellicott City.

O'Donnell, the husband of Wegmans President Colleen Wegman, owns 90 percent of the proposed liquor store through his company IAD LLC, which is registered in Delaware. The other 10 percent of store is owned by attorney Michael Smith, of Ellicott City. Smith, the person who applied for the liquor license, said he would be the primary person running the business.

The split ownership of the store has been a point of contention in the case during the first two hearings, held May 1 and June 14. Most people who testified were opposed to the liquor store.

The majority of the opposition was mounted by owners of existing liquor stores in Howard and other counties. The two opposition attorneys in the case are representing The Kings Contrivance Liquor and Smoke Shop in Columbia, Glenwood Wine & Spirits and The Perfect Pour in Elkridge, but other liquor store owners testified.

Many of the opponents are concerned the proposed 9,800-square-foot liquor store, larger than others in the area, would hurt their business. They have also raised questions about the ownership and whether the liquor store, which would be leasing space from Wegmans, is legal under state law, which prohibits supermarkets and chain stores from carrying alcohol.

The liquor store would be in the same building as the Wegmans, on the second floor. All of Wegmans grocery operations are conducted on the first floor; the second floor has seating for persons purchasing food from its market cafe on the first floor.

Customers of the liquor store would have to first enter Wegmans, as the space does not have a private entrance.

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