Walmart, residents near El Con may deal on hours, liquor sales

2013-08-07T00:00:00Z Walmart, residents near El Con may deal on hours, liquor salesDarren DaRonco Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
August 07, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Shoppers might be able to pick up some beer at the new El Con Walmart after all.

Walmart and residents from the surrounding neighborhoods are hashing out a deal where, in exchange for the retail giant closing its doors at 11 every night, the neighbors will drop their opposition to the liquor license.

No deal has been struck yet, but a Walmart official said the company hopes to have an agreement in place soon.

The new store is not yet open.

"We are pleased with the progress that has been made as we continue to work with residential neighbors of the new Walmart at El Con Mall ... regarding several issues, including regular and holiday store hours and liquor sales," Walmart director of communications Delia Garcia said in an email. "While no agreement has been reached to date, we hope to finalize a mutually acceptable arrangement in the near future."

Last month, dozens of residents packed an Arizona State Liquor Board hearing to oppose a beer and wine license for the El Con Walmart. Residents feared late night boozing would fuel a surge in crime and other problems in their neighborhoods.

The liquor board unanimously voted to deny the license.

Although neighbors scored a victory that night in their long-running battle with the company, Councilman Steve Kozachik felt it would be a short-lived one since Walmart could reapply next year for a liquor license. The odds, he said, would likely favor Walmart.

So he approached both sides about a possible compromise.

"It was clear that both sides had reason to feel vulnerable, and both sides also had strong cards to play," Kozachik said. "The neighborhoods don't want a 24-hour store, and Walmart wants to sell beer.

"If the neighborhoods hold out, they could very well lose on appeal next year. If Walmart holds out, they lose the revenue for another year. I just wanted to try to take advantage of the timing and get both sides to see that there was a good middle ground, a sweet spot that's a win-win for everybody."

The sides agreed to talk and are now working out the details on a variety of topics including:

• Store hours - Neighbors are seeking hours of operation from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., with additional hours during the holiday shopping season.

• Liquor license - Walmart wants residents to drop their objections to a beer and wine license. If residents agree, the change of heart might be enough for the liquor board to grant a rehearing. Residents also want Walmart to wait at least two years before applying for any liquor-license upgrades.

• Guns - While the company isn't planning on selling guns or ammunition at the new store, neighbors want assurances that if it does in the future, it will perform background checks on gun purchases.

• Community engagement - Residents are asking for a Walmart representative to attend neighborhood meetings to maintain an open line of communication in case problems arise.

Representatives for both sides continue to discuss specifics.

"The framework for a solution is in front of the attorneys. Neither side will get all of what they're after, and neither will walk away empty-handed," Kozachik said.

"I'm optimistic that the attorneys can hammer out the details. Both sides see the value in this, so we should see some pretty quick progress."

"It was clear that both sides had reason to feel vulnerable, and both sides also had strong cards to play. The neighborhoods don't want a 24-hour store, and Walmart wants to sell beer.

Councilman Steve Kozachik

Contact reporter Darren DaRonco at 573-4243 or ddaronco@azstarnet.com.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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