Ernie’s Spirits behind Applebee’s, Tri County Liquor in the former Dairy Queen store at the Trademart shopping center and Liquor King on Cumberland Falls Hwy have been selected to each receive one of Corbin’s three allotted package liquor licenses.
The businesses owned by Ernie and Kevin Durham, Bill Smith and Wanda Simons and Jack Taylor, respectively, were chosen from among the 12 applications submitted.
"There were a lot of good choices," said Corbin Alcoholic Beverage Control Officer Bruce Rains
Rains said he had little if any input into the decision, noting that Dan Reed, Distilled Spirits Administrator with the state ABC has made multiple visits to Corbin over the last several weeks to examine the proposed sites.
"Location became the deciding factor," Rains said. "These are spread out across the city."
In the approval letters sent out to each of the business owners Reed noted that the businesses should be ready for final inspection by Oct. 31.
In the event that the business is unable to open by that date, the owner(s) are asked to contact ABC and explain the circumstances.
Smith said based on the renovations planned to turn the former car dealership into a liquor store, it will likely be closer to Thanksgiving before the doors are open and he has already explained that to ABC officials.
Smith described the current state of the building as wide open, adding it will take considerable remodeling to get the building ready.
While acknowledging the amount of work needed to get the location ready, Smith said the site is centrally located to serve residents throughout Corbin.
"We want to express our appreciation for Mr. Forcht for the opportunity to use this location," Smith said. "It is the best location."
When the store, which will encompass approximately 10,000 square feet, is finished, Smith said he and Simons want to make it a place where customers can come and get everything they need to throw a party.
"We will offer more inventory with many different varieties," Smith said when asked what will separate Liquor King from the other stores.
Smith and Simons both have considerable business experience. Smith noted that he ran a drug store while Simons has 20 years experience as a certified public accountant.
"The store will be based on service and low prices," Smith said. "That is the way my drug store was run.
Kevin Durham and his dad, Ernie, likely have the farthest to go as the site of their store is an empty lot behind Applebee’s.
When it is completed, Kevin Durham said the store will be approximately 5,000 to 7,000 square feet.
"It just seems like an up-and-coming area with the hospital and the arena," Kevin Durham said of the location. "It is also somewhat near Laurel Lake."
The Durhams are still working to close on the purchase of the property while also hiring an architect and a construction firm.
If all goes well, Kevin Durham said dirt will start moving at the site within the next month with the goal of opening around Christmas.
"There is a whole lot to do before we can sell our first bottle of wine," Kevin Durham said.
He added that the store will specialize in craft beers and offer a wide selection of wine.
Along with the selection, Durham said he will be working to educate his employees about the various offerings so they can help customers make an informed selection.
"That is the fun part for me, learning about the wines and what makes them different," Durham said.
Kevin Durham is a partner in four Liquor Mart stores in Danville, Manchester and Richmond.
Kevin and Ernie Durham partnered in the second Liquor Mart store in Richmond and Kevin said they are excited about the new endeavor in Corbin.
"Dad has developed a very good relationship with people from Corbin while running the store in Richmond," Kevin Durham said. "He is very good with people so hopefully he will be at the Corbin store shaking hands and greeting customers."
Jack Taylor, who own Tri-County Liquors, which will be located in the former Dairy Queen store in the Trademart shopping center, said Tuesday that he has signed a lease for the building and met with the contractor today about plans to expand and renovate the building.
"Work will probably start Thursday and take about three months to complete," Taylor said.
The plans call for expanding the 3,200 square foot building, adding an additional 1,200 square feet. The interior will be completely remodeled to make it suitable for the liquor store, including improved lighting and the installation of a large beer case.
"We will stock a wide variety of imported and craft beers in addition to wine and liquor," Taylor said.
Taylor said the goal is to have the store up and running by the middle of October.
"It is a great honor to be one of the three picked to receive a license," Taylor said.
The 1986 graduate of Corbin High School has been in the liquor business for 22 years. With two stores in Richmond and one each in Danville, Lancaster and Manchester, which operate under the Liquor Mart name, Taylor said he brings significant experience to the business.
The attraction for the location is the large amount of traffic and high visibility from sitting so close to U.S. 25E.
"It is a good central location, not only for Corbin, but for the surrounding counties as well," Taylor said.
Taylor added that he wants Tri-County Liquors to be known for really good service and low prices.
"Our pricing is low because of our buying power," Taylor said.
Despite Rains assertions, at least one of the applicants who did not receive a liquor license did not appear convinced.
On the Facebook page for Liquor Wold, CEO Wesley Morgan stated that he believed corruption and bribery played a part in the selections. He noted his proposal called for a $2.3 million construction project that involved building an 11,000 square foot building.
"All of this was outlined in our plan and application submitted to the ABC board," Morgan stated. "Instead, you have received a remodeled front of an old car dealership, a remodeled Dairy Queen, and an empty lot behind Applebees that we predict will never have a building constructed on it."
Morgan concluded by stating attorneys representing Liquor World have filed open records requests with the state and Corbin ABC officials.
"If our inquiries result in any solid evidence that there has been a bribe made to prevent us from coming to Corbin, which we expect, we will take legal action," Morgan stated "It is a shame that the people of Corbin must suffer due to the greed of others."
Corbin voters approved the proposal to legalize the sale of packaged liquor within the city limits in February.
The Corbin City Commission approved the ordinance setting out how and when packaged alcohol may be sold in April.
Under the terms of the ordinance, Corbin will receive five percent of the gross sales from packaged liquor.
The taxes are to be paid on a monthly basis. Corbin officials are expecting the first report on July 23.