Sonoita-area residents effort to halt liquor sales at local Dollar General store upended

The new Dollar General store at the corner of State Highway 83 and State Highway 82 in Sonoita, Arizona

By SoAzNewsX

Residents in the small southeastern Arizona community of Sonoita, Arizona are happy with the places they had been able to purchase beer and wine. That is, until Dollar General moved into their town.

The Tennessee-based corporation built one of their latest stores in Sonoita at the intersection of two state highways, much to the dismay of residents. Now, the Dollar General has gotten the approval by the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors to sell beer and wine. Dollar General’s application now goes to the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control.

That action came at a Jan. 3 Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors meeting. The vote was 2-1.

Numerous Sonoita residents expressed their opposition to the license application at the Jan. 3 meeting. Others wrote letteers to the supervisors voicing their disapproval.

The lone ‘no’ vote came from the board chairman Manuel Ruiz, Chairman of District 1. His concern was the number of liquor licenses already in existence in the Sonoita area. He was also concerned about the amount of beer and wine that could be sold at cheaper prices in the late evening at a somewhat busy state highway intersection.

Santa Cruz County Supervisor Bruce Backer

Supervisor Bruce Bracker, who represents the Sonoita-Elgin area voted for the license application saying he didn’t think that denying a license would be in the best interest of fostering a competitive business marketplace. Bracker also said that with the Dollar General store, property value has increased on that lot and some jobs were created for local residents.

Opponents argued before the supervisors that only three local jobs had been created at the Dollar General store while other businesses in the immediate area employ more than 20 Sonoita and Elgin residents.

“It is now up to the community to see if they will support this venture,” Bracker said in an email.

Also voting ‘yes’ was Supervisor Rudy Molera. He offered no comment on his vote.

Initial construction of the latest Dollar General at Highway 83 and Highway 82 in Sonoita did not make local residents happy. They said the community already had enough retail shops. But, their voice was lost in the wind.

Dollar General has been expanding their efforts to sweep the convenience market and gaining an alcohol license was yet another step in that direction.

“We have so many liquor licenses in our small Sonoita area – not to mention it will kill a lot of the wine & beer sales at the Sonoita Mercantile and also the Mini Market,” said Sonoita resident Sally Reichardt in an email to SoAzNewsX. “They cannot compete with the Dollar General prices as they buy in bulk.”

Residents are also concerned that Dollar General’s entrance into liquor sales will hurt the local wineries and vineyards, of which there are nearly 13 within a 20-mile radius of the Sonoita area. Those local businesses also contribute to local causes–something that Dollar General does not do, according to residents.

“Our customers buy beer elsewhere, and this was an opportunity for us to reinforce our convenient advantage,” said Tawn Earnest, Dollar General’s senior director of corporate communications, in an interview Reuters in 2011 when the corporation was seeking a liquor license in an Arkansas community.

Just because the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors approved the corporation’s request for a liquor license, it doesn’t necessarily mean the license will be ultimately approved. Written protests by residents, churches, law enforcement officals and elected officials have stopped a number of license approvals.

It’s not clear when, or if, the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control will take up the matter.



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