by Lisa Tome
That was the decision of the three-member Cecil County Board of Liquor License Commissioners regarding the application for a liquor license by those at Cigar-Etc in Rising Sun Plaza.
Store owner Balraj Singh and manager Shergill Singh were represented by attorney Robert V. Jones.
Jones said that there are at least 40 open liquor licenses in Cecil County and that four of them are in Rising Sun. He said that Singh's desire was to offer liqueurs, fine wines, and champagne that would compliment the cigars that are sold in the store. He said Cigar-Etc hadn't planned to sell beer or have a cold box. "They want to sell high end. They buy unique, exclusive cigars," said Jones. Shergill Singh read from a list of items that he said customers asked the store to sell. "I can't buy in bulk. I'm not going to have walk-in coolers," he said.
Board member John Eller asked if he would be able to buy a six pack of beer in the store if the license was granted. He was told no.
Business owners from Johnston's Liquors, Triangle Liquors, Benjamin's Store, and Chrome Dairy's Beverage Outpost banded together against the issuance of the license. Attorney Will Riddle represented that group which he called the "surrounding licensees".
Riddle said that the liquor commissioners must consider the need or desire. He said public need for this license "does not exist." Riddle also presented stacks of signatures of those who were against the license.
He said the commissioners needed to consider the impact on existing licensees. "When you saturate an area, that causes hardship on existing licensees," said Riddle. He also said the items Cigar-Etc wants to carry would be available at existing stores.
"Once a license is granted, there is no more control once that license is issued," said Riddle. "The need is already being met."
Click HERE to read our original story about the application.
When asked, about 15 individuals raised their hands in support of Cigar-Etc receiving the license. A clerk at a local store said he is at risk of losing his job for supporting Cigar-Etc, but thinks they should get the license. "I think they should get a fair chance," he said.
Jones said he doubts there are "as many people in Rising Sun" as had signed the petitions submitted by Riddle.
Liquor commissioner Cuz Curry asked the existing licensees if they would be hurt by the granting of the license. All said yes.
Following an executive session, the commissioners came back with more questions. They asked the existing business owners if they could supply the specialty items that Cigar Etc wanted to offer. All said yes.
Liquor commissioner John Eller said the license was denied due to potential impact on other licensees. "This has been a tough one for me. I'd like to see the free market prevail," said Eller.
Following the hearing, Balraj Singh said he was "disappointed" with the decision. "Whatever the decision is, we respect that and the board. Obviously, they know more than us. I have no complaints," he said.
Singh said he originally applied for the liquor license as a way to make up for revenue lost after his roll your own cigarette machine business was banned. "We will monitor the business and see what other options we have. There are still options left," said Singh.
The past few years have been challenging for businesses which serve liquor. Blame the economy and a nine percent liquor tax.
There are currently 46 liquor licenses available in Cecil County. In the last three years, renewals have dropped. From May 1, 2012 until April 30, 2013, 12 licenses were not reissued.
Liquor licenses are granted according to population by election district. Of the 46 licenses currently available, all are north of the C&D Canal. There are none available in Cecilton and two are currently grandfathered in. Chesapeake City also has a pending license and none available. There are 10 licenses available in Elkton, five in Fair Hill, 10 in North East, four in Rising Sun, seven in Port Deposit, one in Conowingo, and nine in Calvert.
Back in 2009, Cecil had an all time high licenses issued with 160.