by Lisa Tome
Before he opened for business, people told Balraj Singh he wouldn't be welcome in Rising Sun.
And for the last five years, Singh said his store, Cigar-Etc in Rising Sun Plaza, has been supported by the community.
"We looked at the area and saw that there are no cigar or cigarette stores within 10 miles. And when we moved in, people said the town was not nice. They were wrong," said Singh. "When we opened, everyone came and they are all friendly."
So friendly that they decided to branch out.
"We decided to expand the business. We would like to add beer, wine, and liquor. A lot of people asked us for it. They want one-stop shopping and we hope it will be good," said Singh.
Singh decided to apply for the liquor license because he has space in his store. He used to have a roll-your-own cigarette machine.
The large machine is now in the store and covered because its use was banned in July, 2012.
"We applied for a liquor license in June. We turned everything in and then we found out there is a petition against us. After that, we got our own petition. We are getting good support from the town," said Singh. "We feel terrible. We filed out the application and hear there is a petition against us."
Shergill Singh is the store manager at Cigar-Etc. "Our customers have encouraged us. More competition is good for business. Everybody says 'we hope you get it (the liquor license)," said Shergill Singh.
Attorney Will Riddle said he is representing "several" liquor licensees in the surrounding area. He plans to tell Liquor Board members that the area is "so saturated".
"It's definitely allowed," said Riddle. "But the theory is there has to be a public need or desire. Our argument is that there is no public need or desire. That the area downtown is saturated," said Riddle.
He said that the Liquor Board will examine potential impact of the issuance of a new license on the existing licensees. "Any competition has an effect. With the information we received it's not unique and it appears it is similar to what is already there. It takes away from the existing licensees," said Riddle. "We don't think the license is necessary. What is there already accommodates the needs."
The Cecil County Liquor Board hearing regarding this case is set for approximately 9:15 a.m. on July 30 in the Elk Room at the Cecil County Administration Building, Chesapeake Boulevard, Elkton. The application will be presented and people in the community will be allowed to speak. The Liquor Board members, Tim Snelling, John Eller, and Herrell Curry are expected to render their decision that day.
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.