Modern Liquors SSM exemption

Editor’s Note: This posting is older news from November. I’ve intended to recap it for awhile but between the holidays and a frantic amount of January meetings this blogger has been SWAMPED.

The November MVSNA newsletter was published electronically on the afternoon of Saturday November 14th. I first opened the PDF on Sunday night and saw that the “Modern Liquors Single Sales Exemption” was on the agenda. The headliner agenda item was that Douglas Development finally was going to share their development concept for Squares 450 and 451.

No details were promoted about the nature of the Modern Liquors Single Sales exemption agenda item on the Lifein MVSNA blog or elsewhere. I assumed exemptions would not be considered in a positive light given that MVSNA President Cary Silverman made a Ward 2 Singles ban a priority topic in his campaign to win Jack Evan’s council seat.

When the topic was discussed at the membership meeting on Tuesday November 18th, Silverman recited external testimony exalting Modern Liquors as a well loved store that had already packaged together endorsements from ANC2F and two other neighborhood associations. The testimony touted the store as being under the same ownership (not in attendance) for 20+ years and selling only the belgian and microbrews as singles. One couple spoke up about attending tastings at the store.

I kept waiting for the devil’s advocate. It never came. The vote began. I expected some division. Seemingly everyone (25 people) voted “Yes” but me. SHIT, I was shell shocked!! Did I want to take on twenty-five people by myself to object to a store that I had never been to? Am i possibly going to make a dent? I’m hardly a persuasive public speaker and I was armed with no ammunition (aka research & notes). I just didn’t vote.

Had I thought a little more quickly on my feet I still wouldn’t have voted “No”. I would have just asked “Why are we ruling on this at all? We’ve not discussed the policy in depth. This will be viewed as a precedent setting decision by some and we’ve not considered the ramifications of that the endorsement will have on future requests.“.

After this November meeting I learned more details that further stoked my disappointment with the vote on Modern. While the MVSNA did have a copy of the exemption application form that outlined certain core criteria a business needs to meet for consideration, they put forth this vote six days before receiving the full ABRA regulations on 11/24. Only at that point was it learned that neither brands of alcohol nor price points may be included in a voluntary agreement. It’s basically all or nothing.

Additionally in a December 1st sit down with Ron Green from Good Libations he informed us that Modern Liquors does carry Steel Reserve 211 – aka King of the Hobo brews. I later visited Modern and did not see the 211’s but Ron says they are in a case in the foyer. Because I was buzzed in immediately and did not linger in the foyer I apparently walked right past them into the main area without noticing them.

Since that November MVSNA meeting I’ve realized that I need to challenge the inertia that has been created towards endorsing exemptions primarily via adhoc ‘make it up as you go’ criteria and straw polls of 20 members.

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  1. 1

    fourthandeye says

    Let me say I did visit Good Libations prior to voting on it’s exemption. I stopped in on Saturday Dec 12 with the intention of shopping for a bottle of scotch. But Ron was not behind the counter so my stay was brief…

  2. 2

    Nate says

    I attended that MVSNA meeting and voted for the exemption. I used to live a block away and shopped there regularly; now I am in the Triangle. I never saw Steel Reserve or anything like that, but if it is in the foyer I never would have noticed it. I was going to go by on Saturday anyway so I’ll look. Because Modern really does (as far I knew) only sell very expensive hard-to-find microbrews and imports, I didn’t want to limit sales of those beers, which often really cannot be purchased as other than single 22oz bottles, because of a blanket policy targeting malt liquor sellers.

  3. 3

    Anonymous says

    well I hope to see tonight.
    I just wished you had this fire before. As I stated to you at the first meeting there should be a set standard. I belive that’s what MVSNA did and that’s why they voted for Good Libations.


  4. 4

    Nate says

    I think characterizing MVSNA’s actions as setting a standard that can be looked to in the future, regardless of how one feels about exemptions, is a stretch. That was an ad-hoc decision taken by like 20 people who mostly had not heard anything about this issue before. And, that vote was premised on the idea that the exemption would be reviewed in a year to see how it was working. I for one would vote against exemptions in a second if store owners planned to use them to sell singles of anything other than microbrews et all. I took the exemptions to be a good faith effort on the part of the community to spare business owners overly onerous blanket regulation. If business owners see exemptions as license to sell the singles that clearly harm the community and that the community mobilized to combat with a single-sales ban, that’s bad faith in my opinion, and will be reflected in my future participation in neighborhood meetings.

  5. 5

    fourthandeye says

    Nate, thanks for your comments. Let us know if you see the Steel Reserves. As I mention in the post supposedly they are in the foyer (for easy access?) but that is second hand information rather than my first hand account.

    Regarding precedents/standards – decisions of this nature do carry gravity. ANCs will have to pass judgment on dozens of exemption requests. They are expected to be fair and the only true way to accomplish that is to use the same criteria for every business. Naturally any business owner who sees that another business owner was subjected to lesser/different criteria will cry foul. I can’t even blame for that…

    ANC6C is pausing to develop the criteria before discussing individual businesses. To me that’s the preferred approach. Doesn’t mean it will lack controversy but it’s more defensible.

  6. 6

    Anonymous says

    @Nate and fourthandeye
    Did you guys read the Voluntary agreement MVSNA put together? It has standards that need to be met in order to have the exemption upheld. Nate you said you voted for the exemption for Modern based on what…. Your observation about the store and you didn’t feel the ban was fair to stores because of a blanket policy targeting malt liquor sellers.
    How much discussion on the topic was presented at that meeting? So do you have a problem with the vote on Good Libations?

    The members of MVSNA probably voted for the exemption based of the same reason you stated. They put a one year clause in it for added safety.

    Yes part of the vote was based on faith, earned faith not blind faith. Not some warm fuzzy, nostalgic, sympathetic feelings for the poor old store on the corner. They know Good Libations would not use this exemption to sell items that would hurt the community. As one member sated, “If Good Libations wasn’t a problem before then why would he change and become a problem.”

    Modern is a good store with a good owner. It’s the kind of store that this exemption was put in the law to protect. Does he sell a lot of 211s I doubt it, but he did sell them.


  7. 7

    Nate says


    Your point about why I voted for the exemption is well taken. I shouldn’t have because I didn’t have enough info and there wasn’t a fair formula put forward.

    That said, I’m a big fan of Modern and the management. I like microbrews and I would like there to be some exemptions to the ban. Still, I am not ok with some stores selling some malt liquor. I see the ban as intended to prevent all stores from selling any malt liquor (or medium range singles), and I agree with that intent. I didn’t realize that Modern sold malt liquor and it was presented at the MVSNA meeting as not doing so.

    Characterizing selling singles as “bad faith” was probably excessive on my part. What I mean to say is that I oppose any sales of low AND medium range singles, and support the sale of high end singles. If there is no way of fairly laying that out for all business owners, I would err on the side of no singles. I would strongly prefer working something out though.

  8. 8

    Anonymous says

    I wish more thought like you and could see wny there is an exemption clause. All other nothing at all doesn’t work well for any thing in life.


  9. 9

    Anonymous says

    Nate says he opposes any sales of low AND medium range singles. You praise him for this comment. But your store does aim to sell medium range singles such as Heineken and Corona. When Nate endorses single sales for hard-to-find microbrews and imports he’s talking Chimay not Guinness. His endorsement of singles is only for brands that it is impossible to find as 4 or 6 packs.

  10. 10

    Anonymous says

    @ Anon
    What I applaud Nate for is his willingness to working on a compromise. Also he admits that the vote for Modern was put forward without a fair formula.

    All I’ve been reading are negative comments against MVSNA and ANC2C because the vote for an exemption for Good Libations was based on really nothing but a quick discussion at a meeting in Dec. We need to boycott this store for even applying for this exemption; this store is trying to ruin our community. Do they really think the trust and the good customers based will all be thrown away so Good Libations can sell Malt liquor and have a bunch of bums hanging in front. Well you are still welcome to stop by and taste some Bloody Mary’s and Bruschetta 12-2pm today


  11. 11

    Anonymous says

    Honestly, this really is not a big deal. This is a great store with wonderful ownership. These guys want to sell hard to find singles to people who like to try beers. What’s the big deal? All it would take to get them to stop selling malt liquor is for more than one regular customer to express the tiniest bit of concern. Nitpicking over an issue such as this kills the neighborhood. Get over it.

  12. 13

    fourthandeye says

    @Anon 10:09

    You’ve oversimplified the issue. Those that have taken the time to understand all that is in play like RobA, Miles or Anne know that the issue is more nuanced than you represent it to be. If it was just a decision on “Malt vs Hard to find beers” I don’t think we’d have had all these blog posts and meetings…