Archive for Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Liquor law change catches McLouth council by surprise

August 9, 2006

Until last week, nobody could remember when the last alcoholic beverage was sold in McLouth.

"Not since 1933," said McLouth's former mayor, Jim Schauner, who was born in 1959.

For decades McLouth has been a dry city. But a recent change in state law set the groundwork for a liquor store to open. The city council had from Nov. 15, 2005, until Feb. 15, 2006, to vote to prohibit retail liquor stores.

But the city took no action.

"We didn't know anything about it," said Schauner, who served as mayor until April when he moved outside the city limits. "We didn't hear of the state ruling. Nobody ever advised us of it."

Because of the oversight, the city of McLouth, which long had an active chapter of Women's Christian Temperance Union, essentially changed from dry to wet -- regarding retail liquor stores.

And that opened the door for a new business in town.

On Aug. 1, Charles Karmann opened Karmann's Liquor at 205 S. Union St., in downtown McLouth.

His liquor store is adjacent to a video rental business owned by his mother, Sue Karmann.

Though he's happy about setting up shop, Karmann said he's heard there are McLouth residents who plan to carry a petition which would put the issue of wet or dry to a citywide vote.

Linda Buttron, Jefferson County clerk, said Monday a McLouth resident had contacted her about starting a petition.

"It has to pass through the county counselor before it can be signed," Buttron said.

The petition will need to have 70 valid signatures.

"If they get it to me by September 8, it can go on the November ballot," Buttron said.

A vote would require a majority of McLouth's 613 registered voters, Buttron said.

Business is good

Meanwhile, Karmann was pleased Thursday with his first days of business.

"We had 12 people waiting when we opened," said the 27-year-old Karmann. "Everybody wanted to be the first to buy in McLouth. This is the first time there has been a liquor store here since Prohibition."

Sue Karmann said it made sense to put a store in her building.

Last year on Christmas Day, her husband, Richard Karmann died unexpectedly. He had operated a clock repair shop alongside the video rental.

"The video store wasn't able to make it since my husband died," Karmann said. "He did clock repair and computer repair and that helped pay to keep the video store open."

So for the Karmanns, a liquor store offered a chance to keep the business going.

Charles Karmann, a 1997 McLouth High School graduate, already had experience in the retail liquor industry. He'd helped his father operate a store in Oskaloosa, and he'd worked for liquor distributors.

Once he obtained his liquor store license, Karmann said, liquor distributors worked with him to get started.

"It was a big deal being the first liquor store here," Karmann said, "They (the distributors) were all excited about it."

Schauner, too, said he was pleased to see Karmann open a liquor store in McLouth.

"Any business in the city of McLouth is more than welcome," Schauner said, noting the liquor store will provide more sales tax revenue.

Rumors of a petition

But whether the store will continue to operate is uncertain.

The Rev. David Showalter, pastor of McLouth Church of the Nazarene, said he'd heard a petition -- against allowing retail liquor stores in McLouth -- would be carried.

"As a fellow member of our community, I see no redeeming qualities to the alcohol industry," said Showalter, who has been at the church for 8 1/2 years.

Tom Groneman, director of Kansas Alcohol Beverage Control, said Monday that if a petition led to a successful vote to prohibit the sale of retail liquor, any liquor stores in McLouth would have to close.

"They'd have 90 days to cease operation," Groneman said.

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