Ever since The Pit Stop carryout store closed in Nelsonville in 2017, Athens County has had just one state liquor store selling high-proof alcoholic beverages, located at the Kroger on East State Street in Athens.
In early October 2019, however, the Ohio Department of Commerce’s Division of Liquor Control approved a new state liquor store location at Busy Day Market on West Stimson Avenue in Athens. As of late last month, Busy Day was officially listed as a liquor store on the Ohio Division of Liquor Control/JobsOhio Beverage System’s website.
Gary Edwards, former owner of The Pit Stop in Nelsonville and current owner of The Pit Stop in Lancaster, also owns Busy Day Market in Athens (under the business name Nelsonville Grocery Inc.). Edwards unsuccessfully applied for a transfer of the state liquor store designation from The Pit Stop to Busy Day in early 2017.
Lindsey LeBerth, brand manager with the Ohio Department of Commerce’s Division of Liquor Control, explained in an email this week that the 2017 transfer wasn’t approved because transfers are required to be kept “within the physical boundaries of the original request for proposals.”
This new approval for Busy Day Market was issued after a new request for proposals (RFP) from the Division of Liquor Control for a new state liquor store in Athens County, which was sent out in early June 2019 (with only a month to submit such applications).
According to public records provided by the Ohio Department of Commerce, Edwards was the only person who officially responded to that RFP, offering the Busy Day Market as a potential location, as well as two other locations – one of them a vacant lot on Columbus Road in Athens and the other the former Ohio Valley Trading Post on Ohio Rt. 13 in Athens. The latter building is owned by the East State Street Development Company, purchased from Athens Best Ltd. in 2018 for $700,000, according to Athens County Auditor’s Office property records (the Trading Post closed in 2018).
LeBerth said that it’s not that unusual for the Division of Liquor Control to see such a low response rate to these RFPs. Not all businesses can meet the requirements set down by the state for a state liquor agency, she explained, plus the time frame to respond is relatively brief. The main way that these RFPs are advertised is typically an ad in the largest newspaper of record in a county, LeBerth said. According to the public records, the RFP was advertised in The Athens NEWS from May 30 through June 5 last year, and in The Athens Messenger on May 30, May 31 and June 2.
Asked about the lag time between The Pit Stop closing in 2017 and the new RFP in 2019, LeBerth explained that the Division of Liquor Control/JobsOhio Beverage System did not expand the number of state liquor agencies in Ohio while it conducted an “agency expansion initiative” in 2018. That effort included market research on where new agencies should be granted in Ohio, which included an analysis on whether new agencies would have any negative impacts on existing state liquor store locations.
The Busy Day Market is located across the street from a major OU student apartment complex and within an easy walk of some of Athens’ most concentrated student neighborhoods. The East Green residence halls are just a 10-minute walk away, though most student dorm-dwellers aren’t old enough to legally buy beer or hard liquor.