Liquor Board Backs Waverly in Rite Aid Dispute

by Grenville B. Whitman

With help from a volunteer attorney, Waverly convinced the liquor board that the Rite Aid at 32nd St. and Greenmount needs to make changes.
       Over 20 residents of Waverly welcomed a decision Thursday, April 26 by the Board of Liquor License Commissioners to suspend for 45 days the liquor license of the Rite-Aid pharmacy on Greenmount Avenue and 32d Street, effective May 1.

       Attorney Art Buist, a volunteer from the Community Law Center who represented the Better Waverly Community Organization, demonstrated to the three commissioners that Rite-Aid was in substantial violation of a 1996 agreement it had signed with the organization. Several community residents testified about the original agreement and about present conditions in the store.

       Referring to less-than-satisfactory conditions in the store, community resident Byron Merrick said, looking at Rite-Aid’s attorney, James Cleaver, “I have twins three years old. I expect to tell them what to do, but I usually don’t expect I need to tell adults what to do.”

       Cited as evidence of violations of the agreement and liquor board regulations were a broken sign outside the building, cluttered aisles, a dirty floor, beer cartons stacked away from agreed-to areas, stacked cartons of beer blocking an emergency exit, a display for sale of single cans and bottles of beer and the refusal by the store’s manager to permit inspection of its liquor license.

       Michelle Dodd testified she was appointed acting manager of the store two and a half weeks before the hearing. She claimed the store is cleaned regularly and that beer cartons are stacked in the aisle only temporarily. She also testified, “I don’t know anything about the agreement.”

       One of the three licensees, William Harding, a Rite-Aid manager, testified, “it’s hard to get managers down there,” in the Waverly area. “It seems like a store-condition issue.”

       Leonard Skolnik, chair of the liquor board, commented, “There’s no question Rite-Aid violated its agreement; it is obvious the store is managed poorly.”

       Skolnik then delivered the three-member panel’s decision: that the store’s liquor license will be renewed, that its license will be suspended for 45 days beginning May 1—with no sales of liquor permitted during that period—and that Rite-Aid and the Better Waverly Community Organization reach a formal agreement regarding management and operation of the store.

       The other members of the liquor board, Claudia Brown and William Welch, both asked a number of questions during the hearing.

       Though they had sought total revocation of Rite-Aid’s liquor license, Waverly community leaders were pleased by the ruling. They plan to meet as soon as possible to decide what requirements they wish to place on Rite-Aid, such as moving all alcohol products to the rear of the store, out of the sight of children and teens, and making sure the store is clean and well-stocked, and that it becomes an asset to the community.


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This story was published on May 2, 2001.