Wegmans Food Market may have already conquered Columbia, MD, but anyone who’s shopped in the store before knows it’s missing one major thing: the entire second floor, which was reserved for an in-house liquor store, is still pretty empty after the company was denied a liquor license back in 2012.
Now, however, the Northwestern supermarket titan is back with a vengeance and is trying to nab that liquor license a second time.
In July 2012, the company was denied a liquor license by the Howard County Alcoholic Beverage Hearing Board. The board is a “five-member appointed group that makes decisions on whether to approve, deny, or revoke liquor licenses,” according to the Baltimore Sun.
During the 1960s, Howard County decided that alcoholic beverages (including beer and wine) could only be sold in liquor stores with valid liquor licenses, although grocery stores that sold liquor before the law was passed could be grandfathered in without applying for a license.
Wegmans Food Markets made the big mistake back in 2012 to construct its larger-than-life location in the affluent suburb of Columbia, complete with a second floor intended to serve as a separate-but-connected liquor store — before even being granted a liquor license.
The license was denied by the Beverage Board on the grounds that a 10,000-square-foot liquor store would very likely hurt the eight independent liquor stores within a 1.5 mile radius of the Columbia Wegmans location.
The result of the Board’s decision has left Wegmans high and dry for the past three years, paying for two floors of a gigantic store while only using one.
To American consumers unfamiliar with Wegmans, the situation may sound mundane. Yet for those who have already jumped on the Wegmans train, it seems absurd that the grocery store giant would have let this liquor licensing slip.
Wegmans, which was established in Rochester, NY, has made an eatable empire out of the average grocery store. It’s so enjoyable that even Cher loves to shop there, but the products are affordable enough that a family on food stamps can still stock their pantry shelves.
The company is known for introducing new ideas and technologies that seem superfluous on the surface but actually resonate well with shoppers. The store’s smartphone app, for example, hit the App Store before other grocery stores followed suit.
And according to a June 2015 article from the Democrat and Chronicle, the company plans to allow customers to pay with Apple Pay on their iPhones and iWatches starting this fall — a smart move, considering that four out of five consumers already use their smartphones to shop.
As for its liquor store, Wegmans has cited the changing demographics and increasing population of Columbia, while also noting that the connected liquor store would present more convenience for customers, similar to two separate stores connected on a horizontal strip.
At this time, it’s still unknown if the Beverage Board will grant Wegmans another hearing.