The town of Unicoi’s certificate of compliance for retail liquor stores went into effect Monday, meaning that those interested in opening a package store in the town can now pick up applications.
“Today is the first day the ordinance is in effect, and that means people can come in and formally apply now,” town of Unicoi Recorder Larry Rea said Monday.
Late last month, the town’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen unanimously approved the second and final reading of an ordinance to allow the establishment of retail liquor stores within town limits. A referendum to allow package stores within the town passed by a majority vote in the Nov. 6 general election.
According to this ordinance and related ordinances passed to establish retail liquor store overlay zones, applicants must take several steps, including providing the town with a site plan of the proposed store, detail of how it may impact its surroundings and a business plan.
Package stores must be located at least 200 feet from locations such as churches, schools, playgrounds, day care centers, parks and residences, must be a minimum of 1,800 square feet, and are to have only one entrance for use by the public, according to the ordinance.
The ordinance also said only alcoholic beverages can be sold at the retail liquor stores and sales can only take place during hours provided in state law.
Three sub-district overlay zones in which package stores can be located were established. According to the town’s ordinance, only one store can be located in each of these zones, unless the ordinance is modified. Only two stores can be located within the limits of the town of Unicoi.
Although no one had picked up an application as of late Monday morning, Rea said the town has received correspondence from several people interested in opening a retail liquor store since the ordinance was initially approved.
“There’s been several people who called in about it when we first passed the ordinance, and so we’ve got a list of names and phone numbers that we’ll call now and tell them that if they are interested, now is the time to come and apply,” Rea said.
Rea said interested applicants can pick up applications from Unicoi Town Hall and bring the completed paperwork back to the town hall. Rea said he will then go through a “checklist” to make sure that applicants have submitted the required information, after which the applications will be turned over to the town of Unicoi Planning Commission.
The planning commission will review the applications and make its recommendations on who should be allowed to establish stores. The town’s board of mayor and aldermen will then consider and vote on the planning commission’s recommendations.
After this process, Rea said approved applicants must then go to the state to receive an operating license. Because of this, he said it could be some time before the town sees its first package store.
“We really don’t know how long the state process takes,” Rea said.