Changes sought to ease Meijer liquor sales
Council to review proposal after committee votes against it

By Matt Masterson - Freeman Staff

Nov. 13, 2015

WAUKESHA — Is a separate section inside Waukesha grocery stores necessary to help deter liquor thefts or is it a needless inconvenience?

That was the question discussed by the Ordinance & License Committee this week, following a proposed amendment to the city code that would allow the yet-to-be constructed Meijer store on Sunset Drive to sell beer, wine and liquor together with regular groceries.

Under its current design, ordinance 9.09 requires grocery stores within the city that offer hard liquor to sell it in its own designated section with its own register, away from the rest of the food and beverages.

Alderman Aaron Perry brought forth the proposal to change that ordinance, doing away with the requirement and allowing stores to sell all items together, arguing that separating hard liquor from other goods does nothing to deter theft or underage drinking

“There is nothing stopping a 15-, 17- or 20-year-old from walking into the liquor department, grabbing a bottle of vodka and putting it under their jacket,” Perry said during Monday’s O& L meeting. “There is nothing to stop that. They can do it in the frozen section, they can do it in a separate liquor section — that argument holds no water whatsoever.”

Perry added that the change would help cut costs at both a construction and staffing level for the stores, which should be embracing advanced technology to help thwart retail thefts.

Brian Randall, an attorney appearing at the meeting on behalf of Meijer, explained how the store currently employs multiple anti-theft tactics — from staff training and product protection bottle caps to the very layout of the stores themselves.

He said Meijer does not want to dedicate resources to staffing the extra area, but is willing to add surveillance cameras in its liquor section as well as televisions to reinforce the notion to potential thieves that they are being watched.

Alderman Vance Skinner said he does not see the separate section as an inconvenience, noting that other local chain grocery stores including Woodman’s and Walmart have successfully followed the ordinance.

“This is what Waukesha requires,” he said during the meeting. “We have made a lot of accommodations for Meijer — and that is not to be negative or anything like that — but we have made a lot of accommodations here.”

Alderwoman Kathleen Cummings also added that no other grocery stores in the area have made this sort of request.

The O& L Committee ultimately voted against recommending the proposal to the Common Council in a 3-2 vote.

But because the city has no rule against forwarding items with negative referrals, Perry said he intends to bring the proposal up before the full council at its meeting next week, adding that he plans to contact other local stores to weigh their thoughts on the matter.

The council meets next Tuesday at 6:30 p.m., though the agenda for that meeting has not yet been released.