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Some find alcohol sales hard to swallow

One area school district may have to prove liquor sales within 500 feet could be harmful to the teenagers who attend the school.

The sale of liquor in a school district is not unlawful, said Matt Mullins, spokesperson for the Ohio Division of Liquor Control, but not informing or giving the objecting party the opportunity to express their concerns before the decision to issue the license is.

Clark’s Pump N Shop, located at 409 Marion Pike in the dry village of Coal Grove, has filed a petition to obtain a license to sell liquor.

Rick Clark, co-owner of Clark’s, said the business would only sell beer and wine.

“We are not trying to be a full-fledged liquor store,” he said. “We are not trying to be a bad neighbor. We feel like we are a big part of the community in the Tri-State area. The people have a choice. We want to be able to compete with our competition. We will follow all laws.”

Clark’s received enough signatures to have the petition on the ballot Nov. 4, and if the measure is passed by voters, Liquor Control will send an investigator to determine the distance between Dawson-Bryant High School and Clark’s.

Mullins said the school district has the burden of proof, which is stated in the Ohio Revised Code section 4303.26, the document used to govern liquor sales within 500 feet of public institutions.

“Speculative evidence won’t hold up against statutes,” he said. “And, the guidelines must be related to the grounds.”

Appropriate defenses and evidence are spelled out in the code, Mullins said.

If the gas station is within 500 feet of the school, the school must prove the affects of the liquor sales on the school and students, Cathy Overbeck, director of Lawrence County Board of Elections, said.

“This is just frustrating,” Jim Payne, superintendent of the Dawson-Bryant School District, said. “We are just trying to protect our children. We will do whatever we need to do to strongly object and oppose the sale of liquor this close to the school.”

Clark said the company is looking to provide better service for customers at many of the 65 locations in the tri-state area, not just the one in Coal Grove.

“People come in and ask for (liquor) all of the time,” he said. “People who want to purchase (liquor) won’t have to drive to another location to pick it up.”

The store will only sell alcohol in closed containers that will not be consumed on the premises, Clark said.

“It’s not like it’s a bar,” he said “We are not going to have people drinking beer in the parking lot.”

The sale of liquor will not force people to buy it, Clark argues.

“People have a choice. If they don’t want to buy it; they don’t have to,” he said.

Payne said the school has a drug and alcohol education program the students participate in.

“It teaches them to know what to look for and how to say ‘No’, and all of a sudden we see an institution wanting to sell liquor almost outside of our front door,” Payne said. “As a superintendent, I can’t imagine someone selling liquor within 100 feet (of the school).”

Payne suggests community members take the time to voice their opinions concerning the sale of liquor at Clark’s. He also said it has been difficult and frustrating to deal with the issue because some of the steps taken by Clark’s have been done quietly.