Hold on tight. Could we be on the verge of becoming McLiquorville?
I say that because our Board of Mayor and Aldermen opted Tuesday night to place no limits on the number of liquor stores that can open in McMinnville. We could, theoretically speaking, have a liquor store on every retail corner. We could go from having no liquor stores to having a dozen of them.
Conventional wisdom will tell us this won’t happen. While we could have more liquor stores than Mexican restaurants, I’m thinking we don’t have the population or the customer base to support more than a couple for the long term.
Exactly how much liquor can a town our size drink? I guess we’re about to find out.
With no restrictions on the number of liquor stores, I see several people trying to get in the game. But when the dust settles and the big wallets prevail over the small change, I see McMinnville as being able to support two liquor stores, maybe three at the very, very most.
One reason is because every county around us already has package liquor. As noted by alcohol supporters as the liquor vote neared in November, McMinnville was the last holdout beating back the forces of liquor.
That means we’re not going to get a consistent out-of-county customer base flocking to our liquor stores. Sure, there will be a few scattered visitors who come here to kayak or see Bluegrass Underground who buy our booze, but for the most part it will be the local residents who are brave enough to show their face at a local liquor store.
How many people will that be? Perhaps math can provide some insight.
The U.S. Census estimates the Warren County population at 40,435. Of that total, the Census says a full 23 percent, or 9,300 people, are under 18 and are not eligible to buy liquor.
That leaves some 30,000 people of drinking age, but how many of those actually drink liquor? The liquor store referendum passed with 62% of the vote, so if we take 62% of 30,000 that leaves us with 18,600.
If there were two liquor stores, it would stand to reason they would share customers and have about 9,300 potential customers each.
The great unknown factor is how often Warren County residents buy liquor. Once a month? Once every six months? Once a year? Then what about the folks who still drive out of town because they don’t want to be seen leaving a liquor store in McMinnville?
All this is a long way of saying I don’t think, mathematically speaking, McMinnville can support many liquor stores. That means there won’t be one on every corner. It also means, if a half dozen liquor stores are granted licenses by the state and open here, there are going to be people who learn that lesson the hard way.
While the city has placed no limit on the number of liquor stores here, I don't see there being very many that can survive financially.
Standard editor James Clark can be reached at 473-2191.