Brown Deer reconsiders, approves liquor at North Shore Walmart

Board trades alcohol sales for security upgrades

Aug. 6, 2013

Brown Deer — Village officials and representatives from Wal-Mart have come to a compromise, with the Village Board on Monday approving liquor sales in exchange for added security measures.

The board approved, on a 5-1 vote, a one-aisle liquor department, now to be located at the back of the store about 190 feet from the nearest entrance. Trustee Andrea Weddle-Henning, who has opposed the proposed Walmart Supercenter from the outset, was the lone vote against liquor sales. Trustee Tim Schilz was excused from the meeting while out of town on business.

A liquor department is the last piece of the puzzle in the months-long process of gaining village approval for Wal-Mart's bid to re-tenant the former Lowe's site near Brown Deer Road and 60th Street. In its desire to cater to the "North Shore customer," Wal-mart has already conceded a number of village requests including: curtailing its typical 24-hour availability to match the village ordinance on retail store hours; prohibiting any gun, ammo or weapon sales; landscaping throughout the property; and building a sound-retaining wall on the north side of the property. The decision to approve a liquor department comes three weeks after the board voted to prohibit alcohol sales, citing concerns over crime and a precedent which could cause other village retailers to demand liquor departments of their own.

A number of new security upgrades, and the reassurance that liquor at Walmart doesn't compel the board to allow it elsewhere, were enough for Trustee Terry Boschert, who submitted the necessary request for reconsideration that allowed the board to re-examine the liquor sales permit Monday.

"I wanted to bring it back up for reconsideration," Boschert said before the meeting, "and (the new security measures and assurances) addressed my concerns."

Assisting police

Wal-Mart's new, approved request includes provisions which: require oversight and input from Brown Deer police in Wal-Mart's annual employee training on liquor sales; prohibit the sale of single-serving beer and wine products; require hard-liquor bottles to be outfitted with security caps which until removed prevent opening and trigger alarms at store exits; and prohibits Wal-Mart employees from stocking liquor instead of alcohol vendors.

Wal-Mart will also put up 10 additional security cameras on the exterior of the store, will allow Brown Deer police to access video from store security cameras, and will kick-in $30,000 to put up a wide-angle camera on Brown Deer Road capable of recording video and streaming a live feed to police squad cars. The camera will be monitored by Brown Deer police at all times. Walmart will be first store in the village to comply with the police department's request for such a camera, Police Chief Steven Rinzel said.

"I'm not going to tell you we're not going to have any problems over there. We are going to have some things we're going to have address," Rinzel told the board. "On the other hand, do I think they're trying to do everything they can to assist us in the process? Yes."

A letter to village officials from attorney Deborah Tomczyk, who represents Wal-Mart, also mentions the possibility of the retailer making donations to fund "police and other community initiatives, such as DARE programs."

No precedent

Village attorney John Fuchs made it clear that the board's decision to allow alcohol does not set a precedent for other village businesses, particularly gas stations and a nearby Walgreens that were denied liquor permits in recent years, to now come back and demand their own liquor sections.

Fuchs said the relevant case law requires stores to be nearly identical before an argument can be made that one is being discriminated against. The most similar store to Walmart's incoming grocery is Pick 'n Save, said Fuchs, which already has an alcohol section.

"The burden of (other Brown Deer businesses attempting the argument) would be impossible," Fuchs said. "They would have to duplicate (Walmart's) operation."

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