Howard's population is growing to the point where a new liquor store is needed in Ellicott City, proponents told the Liquor Board yesterday.
"Per capita consumption is down, but the market is up because of the population increase," said John R. Sherwood III, an economic consultant for a group wanting to open a liquor store in the Enchanted Forest Shopping Center. "There is an opportunity here not being tapped," Mr. Sherwood said. "There is sufficient market support without damaging competing businesses."
The board heard similar testimony 18 months ago on behalf of the same applicant -- Your Wine Shoppe Inc. -- and voted 4-1 to deny the license on the grounds that a liquor store at the shopping center is not needed to accommodate the public. An applicant denied a license may reapply a year later.
Yesterday, Liquor Board members questioned Mr. Sherwood's economic assumptions, saying that they were based on projections and averages rather than on specific findings. Mr. Sherwood said he based his assumptions on the limited data available.
In the earlier hearing, liquor store owners along Route 40 who opposed the new store told the board that sales were flat and that they were already providing for the public's needs. The owners are expected to tell a similar story when the hearing resumes Sept. 27. Yesterday, the board heard from proponents only.
Other shopping center tenants told the board yesterday that some of their customers want a liquor store there so they can do one-stop shopping.
Mr. Sherwood, who was hired as a consultant after the first license request was denied, built on that testimony, telling the board that sales of food and beverages are linked. He emphasized that a large grocery store attracts business to the shopping center.
Studies show that 70 percent of grocery shoppers are women, Mr. Sherwood said. An Enchanted Forest liquor store would cater to them in a way that other Route 40 establishments don't, he said.
"We are creating an atmosphere where women would not be afraid to talk to employees," said Patrick Gonzalez, one of the license applicants.
Earlier, Mr. Gonzalez told the board that in 1983 he held a Baltimore County liquor license that was suspended for three days because he served a minor. He said the minor was a police cadet who entered his store with two plainclothes detectives who came in often.
"I thought he was one of them" and didn't check the cadet's age, Mr. Gonzalez told the board.
To be granted a license, applicants must prove the license is necessary to accommodate the public, that they are fit and proper persons to hold a license and that the granting of the license will not unduly disturb the peace and safety of the neighborhood.