There has been a months-long struggle over whether Back Door Liquor Store, behind Haskell Hilltop convenience store would get to keep its liquor license. In August 2015, the Director of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Division (ABC) ruled that they were far enough away from a church that they would be allowed to operate.
Back Door, under the ownership of Jamie Bennett, has been in operation continuously at 105 Mitchell Street. It’s called “Back Door” because it’s attached to Haskell Hilltop’s back side and faces another street. The the church in question, Mt. Harmony Missionary Baptist, across State Highway 229, measured again several times and came up finally with a measurement under 1,000 feet. If a property is closer than 1,000 feet to a church or school then they can’t operate as a liquor store.
- Daycares don’t count as schools in ABC decisions.
- Beer and wine may be sold without the distance limitation from churches and schools.
How did they get a different measurement? According to Bennett’s Attorney, Clint Lancaster, the ABC measured in person at first, which accounted for elevation. The property is hilly, so if you look at two points on a flat map and you draw a straight line from building edge to building edge, it knocks off about 20 feet in this particular case. This is how the church came up with a number around 980 feet. They took that number to ABC Director Bud Roberts and he has the authority to make the decision, which was to revoke Back Door’s license.
Lancaster said they will file an appeal, but the store will continue to operate at the very least until the next ABC board meeting on February 18th, 2016. At that point, if the board decides the store may continue to operate during the appeal process, they will. If not, they’ll have to divest themselves of inventory on February 19th to some other entity that has a permit to sell alcohol.
But wait! As it happens, Jamie’s husband, Ray Dean Bennett, was also one of the few that qualified for a liquor store permit – for Happy Hours Wines & Spirits at 2100 North Highway 229 in Haskell. That’s about 300 feet south down Highway 229 from Back Door. So if it happens that Back Door isn’t legally able to stay in business, there is still the possibility of a liquor store just a football field away. However, the property at the possible “Happy Hour” location needs quite a bit of work.
There are some besides the Bennetts who hope to keep the store going. When the distance first came under question, the store made a petition and quickly got 300 local signatures from people on their side.