Winn-Dixie researches liquor store

By Steve Estes

Representatives of Winn-Dixie Supermarkets have begun research with county staff about the possibility of placing a liquor store in the Big Pine Shopping Center where the company currently operates the island’s only grocery store.

And according to county planning staff, there is nothing in current zoning regulations for Big Pine Key that would prevent the establishment of another full liquor store on this island of roughly 5,200 full-time residents.

In a letter to county staff Winn-Dixie’s representatives said they were looking at a center location not immediately adjacent to the grocery store. Part of that is in state and county rules that prohibit the same door for a liquor store as another retail establishment that doesn’t have the liquor license.

According to staff, the shopping center is in an Urban Commercial zoning district which allows liquor stores, but the applicant would have to apply for a special use permit for alcoholic beverage sales.

That permit can be awarded by the county planning commission.

“If the location/business meets the codified criteria required required for an alcoholic beverage special use permit, the Monroe County Planning Commission will grant the permit at a public hearing,” wrote county planner Joe Haberman in a response to the company.

Winn-Dixie, if eventually approved for a liquor store, would be the second major national chain to establish a full liquor store on Big Pine in the last decade where before only two smaller mom-n-pop type operations had existed.

Coconuts Lounge and Drive-Thru Liquors and Big Pine Liquors were the two existing liquor stores on the island before Walgreen’s opened one.

And Walgreen’s put a major dent in the business at Big Pine Liquor. Winn-Dixie would probably do the same.

“I find it very disappointing that the planning commission would approve another liquor store on Big Pine from a major national chain,” said Steve Miller, co-owner at Big Pine Liquors.

“The commission is very big-business friendly and seems to have forgotten about the small independent businesses that made the Keys economy viable for many years,” said Miller.

“It was the mom-n-pop stores that kept the Keys economy running, where all of our money goes back into the local economy instead of to the coffers of a major corporation that isn’t located here,” he added.

At one time, the county had seriously considered a national chain-store ban for Big Pine Key, but opted not to go that way and instead put limits on high-intensity commercial uses and prohibited further commercial enterprises with drive-through window accommodations.

The ban on additional high-intensity commercial uses would not apply to businesses attempting to locate in the shooing center because the entire complex is already recognized as a high-intensity commercial facility.

There was no mention of when Winn-Dixie might be ready to start the formal process to open a new liquor store.

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