TURNER — The owners of Bryant’s Airport Variety, a new convenience store and diner by Twitchell’s Airport and Seaplane Base, are challenging the state’s decision to award the town’s last agency liquor store license to the new Hannaford instead of their business.
It’s a complicated story of three stores, two liquor licenses, one new court case and a state hearing officer’s decision that two stores located across the street from each other are actually 0.2 miles apart.
Turner is allowed four agency liquor store licenses based on its population, according to David Heidrich Jr., spokesman for the Maine Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations.
Bryant’s Airport Variety, located near the Auburn town line on Route 4 and owned by Jason Bryant and Joan Bryant-Deschenes, a former state legislator, opened in early 2014. Hannaford Store No. 8428, owned by the Delhaize Group of Belgium, opened down the road in Turner Village in July 2013.
Both Hannaford and Bryant’s Airport Variety paid $2,000 and submitted applications for the fourth license last summer, according to bureau records.
After a hearing in September, the state awarded the license to Hannaford in October.
In her appeal filed last week at the 8th District Court in Lewiston, Bryant-Deschenes claimed the state didn’t take into account the proximity of Hannaford to the closest existing agency liquor store, a clause in state statute designed to consider the impact of a new license on an existing one.
B & A Variety, an agency liquor store since 2005, is another convenience store and deli owned by Bryant and Deschenes-Bryant, across the street from the new Hannaford on Route 4.
In its initial application, Hannaford was asked to name the closest existing agency liquor store. It listed B & A Variety as being 0.7 miles away.
In the ruling awarding Hannaford the liquor license, hearing officer Tim Poulin put the distance at 0.2 miles.
In her appeal, Bryant-Deschenes put it at 300 feet.
In his agency liquor license ruling, Poulin, who is also the bureau’s deputy director, noted Hannaford and B & A Variety were different types of stores, a convenience store with food and gas versus a full-service grocery store and pharmacy.
“In addition, as of the hearing date, Hannaford Supermarket and Pharmacy No. 8428 had not had a negative impact on B & A Variety’s sales in most areas,” he wrote.
In her appeal, Bryant-Deschenes also claimed that the state applied a double-standard to her new convenience store.
“Bryant’s was sent a letter from the bureau stating that it would not qualify to apply for a license as a chain retailer if it had violated any section of Title-28 A (state liquor laws) within a year,” Bryant-Deschenes wrote.
Hannaford violated that law, she claimed, when another store in the chain in Auburn was summoned for selling alcohol to a minor on July 31.
On the field inspector’s report for Hannaford, the state inspector marked “no” in response to the question, “Any liquor violations within the past year?”
In their applications, Bryant’s Airport Variety, at 3,200 square feet, had proposed dedicating 170 square feet to liquor sales. Hannaford, at 26,869 square feet, proposed 135 square feet.
Poulin chose Hannaford as “more feasible” based on “its greater square footage, higher customer count, services offered, parking, larger beer and wine inventory, higher beer and wine sales and start-up inventory of spirits.”
On Monday, the appeal had not yet been scheduled for a court date.