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Upscale wine store right fit for 117th and North?

Plan Commission backs plan in 4-2 vote

May 12, 2010

The area near 117th Street and North Avenue just isn't the place for an upscale wine and liquor store, some neighbors say, but the proposed business won the recommendation of Plan Commissioners, one of whom pointed out it would fill a vacant storefront.

Amandip Singh, who already owns a liquor store in Greenfield, told the commission Monday that he wants to operate a "very upscale" shop in the same building as White House of Music that would carry 300 to 400 wines, as well as expensive cognacs and single-malt scotches.

Several neighboring homeowners voiced opposition, arguing there are already plenty of grocery and liquor stores in the area and that the proposed wine store doesn't fit with an environment where families walk to a nearby popcorn wagon and children take music lessons.

"It's a popcorn wagon neighborhood," Becky Giering said. "It's not an upscale wine neighborhood."

Mayor Jill Didier said the renderings Singh presented didn't live up to her expectations - she had thought the shop would be on par with Vino 100 in the Village.

"It doesn't look as high-end as I would have derived from our conversation," she told him.

Resident Lissette Fuller serves as a Wauwatosa School District ambassador, helping promote the area and attract new families. A wine store would not appeal to people with young children, she said. She also worried that with an alternative school and mental health clinic dealing with alcohol abuse nearby, a wine store would be "a mix for disaster."

Four of the six commissioners voted to recommend approval to the Community Development Committee and Common Council, saying that whether one buys wine or liquor, it's all alcohol. With expensive brands and no snack or candy for sale it's unlikely kids would try to make purchases there.

Commissioner Gloria Stearns said she would like to see the "for rent" sign that's been in the window finally come down. With a music store and a law firm already there, the wine store would fill up the commercial building.

Building owner David Carter said he has had numerous opportunities to sign "lesser quality" tenant businesses, but held out. He said that "we were concerned when we heard the first words were 'liquor store.' I didn't think it would be good for neighborhood."

But the concept of a wine store was a better use that would draw a more discerning clientele, he said.

Singh said his clerks would have state-issued bartender's licenses and be trained on how to ID people who are buying alcohol. He also said he has not had problems with burglaries or selling to minors at his other store.

Next Step

WHAT: Community Development Committee discussion about a conditional-use permit that would allow a liquor store at 11747 W. North Ave.

WHERE: City Hall, 7725 W. North Ave.

WHEN: 8 p.m. May 25

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