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Wednesday, 27 February 2013 00:00

Sylva and Jackson County can’t agree on joint ABC venture

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Sylva and Jackson County are at an impasse on the creation of a single Alcoholic Beverage Control board to run the existing liquor store in Sylva and a new one proposed in Cashiers.

 

Sylva currently has the only liquor store in Jackson County. But the county plans to open a new store in Cashiers following last year’s ballot measure approving countywide alcohol sales. The town and county were going to join forces and operate both stores in concert and share the profits, but have been unable to agree on the details.

Sylva leaders fear the start-up costs and overhead of a new store could make Cashiers a drain rather than a boon. They want a guarantee that the reliable revenue from their store won’t be compromised — and want to isolate themselves from any losses incurred by the Cashiers store.

“Protecting Sylva’s budget would be my main concern,” said Town Manager Paige Roberson. “And that protects the services for the taxpayers of Sylva.”

Jackson County proposed a 60-40 profit-sharing arrangement in the county’s favor. But Sylva wants a profit floor the town would be guaranteed of not dipping below. Specifically, Sylva leaders want to ensure they would get at least $176,000 a year — which is the average annual profit it’s gotten over the past five years.

That figure would serve as the baseline for five years, but after that the town wanted to use a consumer price index formula to adjust Sylva’s guaranteed minimum “take” going forward.

“That was pretty much the stopping point in the negotiations during our last meeting,” Roberson said.

The two parties have met several times since January. But as of now, it looks as if the county will form its own ABC board in March and forge ahead with opening a Cashiers store. There is still the possibility of the town and county ABC boards merging in the future, said County Manager Chuck Wooten.

Wooten, who was in on negotiations, said commissioners were willing to guarantee Sylva a minimum profit based on its average earnings over past years. But the idea of attaching a consumer price index to guarantee profits indefinitely into the future didn’t seem appropriate.

“We felt like it would just be best to leave it as it is,” he said. “That doesn’t mean there won’t be an opportunity to merge in the future.”

A Cashiers store could cut into Sylva’s market share. Currently, Sylva splits 50 percent of its profits with the county, an arrangement written into state legislation establishing Sylva’s ABC board in the 1960s.

If Jackson opens a store in Cashiers, the county would get all the profits from Cashiers and 50 percent of Sylva’s profits — unless Sylva manages to get the profit-sharing arrangement undone.

Roberson said the only way to do that is by consent of both the town and the county, or petition the N.C. General Assembly to amend the original legislation. However, she said, the town has not explored that option as of yet.

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