The Nebraska Liquor Control Commission Thursday afternoon granted a request from six Omaha Walgreen’s stores to sell hard liquor.
Opponents did not produce hard evidence against the move, other than to say they were against it, according to Commissioner Bob Batt.
The locations include 30th and Dodge, North Saddle Creek, 72nd and Cass, 90th and Blondo, 132nd and West Center and 132nd and Maple. Those stores have been selling beer and alcohol since the Omaha City Council gave the green light last March.
Members had voted against a recommendation that the same stores be able to sell hard liquor, citing the number of nearby retailers which already carry those products. Walgreen's applied for licenses anyway since the decision was ultimately in the hands of liquor control commissioners.
Walgreen's corporate spokesman Robert Elfinger told Channel 6 News customers have reacted favorably to the beer and wine offerings. "And we are also receiving a significant number of requests for spirits in our locations. As a retailer, we must constantly evolve our product selection to meet the changing needs and requests of our customers."
Elfinger declined comment on whether or not the recent surge of CVS pharmacies in the area had any impact on their liquor license request.
"I don't see any difference compared to a grocery store selling it or a gas station," said Lorrie Randels as she fueled up across from the 132nd and Center Walgreen's location.
"As long as it doesn't bother the neighbors, it really doesn't bother me," said Bob Austin of Omaha.
But it does bother some. The Joslyn Castle neighborhood is sandwiched between two Walgreen's looking to get in the spirit game.
Julie Miereau, owner of the Cornerstone Mansion Bed and Breakfast at 39th and Davenport, said, "In a neighborhood like this in midtown, we have people who sort of wander these streets. They're dealing with issues of addiction. Those folks are drawn to people that sell single cans or the small bottles of hard liquor."
Elfinger assured that single cans are not part of their request and he said they will not be selling those little, single-serving liquor bottles. Regardless, Mieureau feels like Walgreen's is breaking a promise it made to neighbors of the North Saddle Creek store, back when it opened. "In 2003, they promised us that there would not be liquor sales at that site and now they're reneging on that."