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Coakley's gets liquor board approval to proceed with Cornerstone package goods store

Coakley's Cornerstone as it appeared in early 2016. The proposed wine and spirt's shop in the former Vancherie's restaurant on Union Avenue has finally received approval to open from the Harford County Liquor Control Board.
Coakley's Cornerstone as it appeared in early 2016. The proposed wine and spirt's shop in the former Vancherie's restaurant on Union Avenue has finally received approval to open from the Harford County Liquor Control Board. (MATT BUTTON/THE AEGIS/BSMG)

Margie Coakley has the green light from the Harford County Liquor Control Board to open Coakley’s Cornerstone in downtown Havre de Grace, nearly two years after the board turned down a request to establish an off-site liquor store near her existing establishment, Coakley’s Pub.

The approval granted at a Nov. 15 liquor board hearing is just the first of a number of steps Coakley must complete before she can open the store, according to the liquor board administrator.

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“It’s not a matter of, she can just open the doors, liquor board Administrator Pilar Gracia said last Thursday. “We still need a lot of information from her.”

The board granted permission Nov. 15 for “alteration of premises,” which allows a licensee to proceed with expanding, modifying or renovating their business premises, according to Gracia.

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Coakley must still get approvals from all relevant agencies, such as the City of Havre de Grace, and she must show documents such as floor plans and a timeline to the board, Gracia said.

The board denied Coakley’s request for off-site liquor sales in early 2016. She had overseen an extensive remodeling of the former Vancherie’s restaurant between North Union Avenue and St. John Street — the building is a short walk from Coakley’s Pub at 406 St. John St.

Board members expressed, at the time, concerns about Coakley extending the off-site package sale privilege in her liquor license to a separate building. Coakley purchased the building in April 2015, and she has stated previously that she plans to build a path connecting the store and pub so employees can get back and forth.

Coakley’s attorney, Eric McLaughlin of Bel Air, presented information to the board Nov. 15 that the former Vancherie’s property — the building fronts Union Avenue — is now part of the Coakley’s Pub business address, according to Gracia.

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“There have been a series of, basically, cross easements and consolidations of properties in the City of Havre de Grace,” she said.

Those actions happened between early 2016 and the present day. One result meant 414 St. John St. went through a “replatting,” so it includes the Cornerstone building, according to Gracia.

The business address for Coakley’s is now 406-414 St. John St., according to Gracia.

“As a result of that inclusion of that building into the current business address, Eric McLaughlin wanted to make sure that that building could be used as part of the business premises,” Gracia said.

The board also granted approval based on testimony from the applicants that the Cornerstone will not be for alcohol sales alone, but it will be a convenience store where alcohol and other goods are sold, Gracia said.

The board heard testimony in opposition Nov. 15 as well, including testimony from owners of other liquor stores in Havre de Grace.

Bel Air attorney John Zink represented One Stop Liquors, which is on Route 40. He said “there isn’t a public need for another off-[site]sale liquor store.”

“We were very concerned about whether or not the expansion of the off-sale facilities at Coakley’s Pub was appropriate in a separate building that, at one time, was on a separate lot,” Zink said in a recent interview.

He acknowledged the city’s lot lines have been adjusted to incorporate the Cornerstone into Coakley’s Pub.

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