It could be 45 to 60 days before beer, wine hit Tyler store shelves, officials say

TYLER (TYLER MORNING TELEGRAPH) - Now that Tyler area voters have popped the cork on beer and wine sales, the question now might be, "When can I buy?"

Barring a drawn-out legal battle regarding the legitimacy of the petitions that placed the propositions on ballots, officials say it could be 45-60 days before local retailers can sell the first six-pack or bottle of wine.

Loretta Green, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission's regional licensing supervisor, said Monday that the commission already is walking the jurisdictions through the multi-step process.

Ballots must first be "canvassed," an approval process by each entity that makes the votes official. State law dictates the Smith County commissioners and Tyler City Council canvass the vote between Nov. 14 and Nov. 19.

After the votes are canvassed the jurisdictions can begin accepting applications from businesses. Applications in the city also must be approved by the county and state comptroller before the application goes to the beverage commission, Ms. Green said.

Cities usually check to make sure businesses comply with ordinances before signing off on the application, she said.

The city of Tyler is working to establish ordinances regarding beer and wine retail activity within the city limits. The city will establish ordinances regarding signage, building aesthetics, open container rules and the distance businesses must be from schools and churches before the vote is made official.

The city is expected to adopt its ordinances at the same time votes are canvassed.

City spokeswoman Susan Guthrie said they estimate at least 100 businesses will apply for permits. She said the permitting process does not generate funding adequate to add positions and that the Planning and Zoning Department will handle applications with its present staff.

Each application will be reviewed and physically checked to ensure compliance to the various ordinances, Ms. Guthrie said. Ms. Guthrie said it is too early in the process to estimate a timeline for permitting. She expects businesses will be permitted in "bunches" according to available staff and what the review process entails for individual retailers.

The county has fewer ordinance options with regard to unincorporated areas within Precinct 2. It can apply distance regulations regarding churches and schools but will have little power to control building specifications or signage.

After applications pass through the city and county, the comptroller's office will approve them for tax purposes.
How long the process takes will depend on the entities, Ms. Green said.

"After the applications are signed off on they come to us," Ms. Green said. "Our average time of issuance is 42 days from the time we get that application."

She said an advantage for the TABC is that applications are "imaged" into its system, which allows any office in the state to assist with the process.

Businesses with already established permits in surrounding jurisdictions could have an advantage over retailers looking to enter the alcohol market, she said. Ms. Green said businesses that have an established record with the commission and hold permits file a shorter application to submit.

She said all businesses go through the same process other than the short-form permit. She suspects most established businesses already have filled out paperwork

Brookshire's spokesman Sam Anderson said the company is prepared to begin the permitting process. He said the company hopes to have products placed before Jan. 1 and possibly during the holiday season.
The Brookshire's store in Troup received its first shipment of alcohol on June 28, 2011, following canvassing of the vote their on May 14 that year, exactly 45 days.

Ms. Green said, "It will be a challenge for everyone at first, but we'll do the best we can. It's a better process than in the past but when it's their business it's never fast enough."


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