LIGHTNING EDITORIAL: Damn the facts, full speed ahead
The Henderson County ABC board and the Henderson County Board of Commissioners seem determined not to let facts sway their inexorable march toward more ABC stores.
Never mind that the three ABC systems in the county have firmly and unanimously advised against trying to build a sixth or seventh liquor store. Never mind that there is nothing approaching a widespread clamor among consumers for more places to buy the hard stuff. And never mind that the county would be looking at an investment of around $1.5 million with a thin chance of profit.
The ABC board has been thorough. We give them credit for that. The board has done the smart thing in asking ABC board members and managers from Fletcher, Laurel Park and Hendersonville for their opinion, and it has done the courteous thing by listening.
Our fear is that the board members can't accept no as the answer to the questions they have posed: 1. Is there room for more ABC stores in the county? and 2. Is there any reason to believe a merger would work to the benefit of the county's residents?
The chorus of caution has not stopped ABC board chairman Beau Waddell from declaring that new ABC stores would make money.
"I personally believe Henderson County could support one, maybe two ABC stores, which would increase funding to the county," Waddell told the Board of Commissioners last month.
Waddell acknowledged that the three city boards had opposed the idea, and he said the state ABC board, which must approve new stores, would listen to the cities' concerns. A local merger, Waddell said, is not in the cards for now.
Two commissioners, Michael Edney and Larry Young, suggested that a county-run ABC store ought to be in our future, despite abundant evidence that it would be risky.
"I think it's worthwhile for the community," Edney said of the ABC board's work. "I hope you do open a store."
While the testimony so far tilts strongly against new liquor stores, the ABC board plans to seek money from the county to pay for a marketing study. It's probably a good idea, provided it's not one with a wink-wink predetermined outcome that declares, Shazam!, we do need more liquor stores. The county commissioners seem to be counting a new stream of revenue before the first brick is laid and the Wild Turkey is ordered.
Everything the ABC board has heard so far, from the stop state ABC official to the local managers who sell booze every day, has been layered with caution. The county ABC board has listened, by all appearances. Whether it will heed hangs in the balance. It ought not measure success by building a new store. Success might well be thorough and objective research, due diligence and a sharp pencil leading to a simple answer: No, not now.