State Reps support hard liquor sales at Iowa gas stations - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

State Reps support hard liquor sales at Iowa gas stations

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -- This week, state representatives overwhelmingly approved a bill which allows gas stations to obtain a Class E Liquor License. Currently, if a store sells fuel, they have to have a separate, walled-off room and second register to sell hard alcohol -- like vodka or rum.

The change could generate $3 million annually for the state, but some believe it will create more problems in area communities.

If you ask Edgar McGuire, owner of Bootleggin Barzini's in Coralville, picking up a bottle of vodka or rum should be separate from filling your gas tank.

"It's not a common commodity like a pair of pants or a bag of nuts," he said. "It's more like pseudoephedrine. And gas stations don't sell pseudoephedrine."

Lawmakers seem to believe, as long as a business pays a fee, they should be able to offer more than beer and wine. House File 617 passed 86 to 9 -- Rep. Pat Grassley was the only local lawmaker who voted "no". It was a surprising majority to both McGuire and Waterloo Police Captain Tim Pillack.

"I really question what the representatives were thinking," said McGuire.

"It's kind of surprising how some bills can pass through quickly, and others seem to take forever," Pillack noted.

The average Class E license fee for a convenience store would be $4,300. The state is estimating 200 businesses would obtain this license. But McGuire is concerned the cost would not deter most of the 2,200 gas stations located in Iowa.

"If liquor is available on every corner, then you're going to see liquor stores start to fold," he said.

What concerns police in Waterloo, is that, quite simply, the community does not need any more places to buy hard alcohol.

"Right now, we do have a lot of liquor stores in town. So, there's plenty the way it is right now, for everybody to have the convenience they need to get what they want, without having to put it into convenience stores," said Pillack.

The bill still needs Senate approval before it goes to Gov. Terry Branstad.  It appears senators will vote on the measure in April.

"I just don't think we should be promoting it on every corner. I hope Branstad will take a stand, and say this is not the message that we want to send," added McGuire.

The Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division is expecting to add four full-time jobs to deal with the new licenses. Pillack notes, this would also create more work for police, who would have to perform compliance checks on the gas stations who opt to sell hard liquor.

Online Reporter Colleen O'Shaughnessy

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