I promised to come back with my reasons why there shouldn’t be a new liquor store in downtown Chester. I can’t say I was surprised to receive a few comments that asked what’s the problem with having a liquor store downtown. This post is written for those of you who need a little insight to the potential problems.

Charlie B’s had good intentions but could never make it work at this site despite great ribs. So did the Amish Farmers market despite fresh food. Is the City of Chester betting a  liquor store could buck the trend of business closings at this location?

Let me first confess. I purchased a bottle of liquor this week. I had to make the tough decision to travel 2 miles to Eddystone, or 3 miles to Brookhaven, or 5 miles to Delaware. I took the lazy way out and went to Eddystone.

I couldn’t help but to wonder if I would have stopped at 7th and Welsh in downtown Chester if there was a liquor store there. Probably not. I think I only shopped at the one on 9th and Highland a half dozen times and five of those visits was after I learned they were one of the few places that sold my favorite Dominican rum despite their otherwise limited selection, limited parking, and dealing with the ‘half-pint’ crowd.

Here’s my top reasons why downtown Chester (or anywhere in Chester) isn’t ready for a liquor store:

A target for burglary. Didn’t the 9th & Highland store close because they were tired of being robbed? What makes 7th & Welsh any less attractive to thieves?

Parking. A liquor purchase is in-and-out. The Welsh Street parking is on one side of the street with 4 spots in front of the store. The typical Chester double-parker will block the street as Septa buses come by. There is a large parking lot in the back with plenty of spaces. Unless they provide a rear entrance, I don’t think many people will feel comfortable taking that walk to the front of the store, or back to their car with a load of booze.

Selection. It’ll be a half-pint haven for obvious reasons. If it’s not so obvious, just remember that this store will only be catering to Chester residents. NO ONE from out of town will be shopping here. There will be a host of cheap wines, well liquors, and the few high end brands the rappers say we like. You will not see displays of the Chairman Selection wines at the Chester liquor store.

Access. If you want liquor today, you need to drive a short distance. That does discriminate against those without access to cars, but it ain’t a crime. Bars are still around if you want a drink. The price of a drink is the same as a half-pint. Which one brings you the bigger bang for the buck? Please don’t give easy access to the half-pint

Temptation. So many people in Chester are living on the margins. So many are down and out. So many are in recovery. So many are living the hard-knock-life. To ease the pain, an easy stroll to the liquor store is an easy fix. We shouldn’t be encouraging this.

Panhandlers. It’s bad enough trying to get gasoline in Chester without being hounded. You can bet a downtown liquor store will be surrounded by panhandlers. Oh, but the police station is right out the back door and they’ll shoo them away. Maybe, but I’d rather  not create new work for my police. Let the few of them try to fight real crime.

Graft. If the City of Chester folks are really the ones trying to bring someone in to open a liquor store, you have to wonder what control the City of Chester will have in the business operation. What’s to stop a ‘Nucky Thompson type Broadwalk Empire’ character from shaking down local bars and insisting they buy their liquor from the ‘City Sponsored’ liquor store, especially when you consider the limited customer base of  Chester only people shopping there anyway.

Timing. I’m not opposed to anyone opening a legitimate business in downtown Chester, but it’s way to early for a liquor store. In 2011 I first wrote that the city should encourage store owners who would bring fresh food to downtown Chester as the center of attraction to a downtown renaissance. People need to eat. People need food. People need to start small business that employ locals.

In another post on the same topic in 2015, I wrote this…

Instead of taking a full city block to build a super market, designate a city block of storefronts owned by local people who sell a grocery item. Imagine Avenue of the States from 6th to 7th Street with a family owned butcher, baker, dairy, fruit and vegetable store, fish market, and general store – even if it’s Dollar General.  Give qualified local people incentives to open these stores to serve the community who needs it most.  The rest of the block would thrive as other small businesses would want to be on that block because that’s where the people come everyday for food

According to Philly.com, Chester better hurry before the new laws take affect.

Three Philadelphia legislators – State Reps. Joanna McClinton, Jordan Harris, and Donna Bullock – are sponsors of a bill that would give the Liquor Control Board authority to designate nuisance market areas where stiffer penalties can be imposed for violations, including license revocations.

The bill was passed by the full House last week (meaning St. Rep. Kirkland voted for this law) and sent to the Senate Law and Justice Committee, where it deserves equal treatment.

One provision would close a loophole that allows the current holder of a liquor license to sell or transfer it with the LCB investigating only the reputation of the listed new owner. Under the new law, license sales or exchanges would also be based on other factors, including the establishment’s proximity to schools and churches.

There’s no way the Liquor Control Board would approve 7th and Welsh as an approved site for a liquor store under this proposed law because it’s too close to Chester Community Charter school, City Team, Catholic Social Services, 2 churches, and a sitting park of people with nothing else to do all day but to sit in the park and enjoy the company of each other. Now, they sit around and cause no problem. How could that change if half-pints were only a street crossing away?

Imagine a charming downtown filled with local merchants selling all types of stuff. When we get to that point, a liquor store may make sense.

If you want to get more information on this new business coming to 7th and Welsh, contact Chester City Hall, your City Council people, CEDA, the Chester Zoning board, Chester City Planning, your State Rep. and/or the PA Liquor Control Board.