Beer sales positive and negative for Sparta

For decades, there were no place inside the Sparta city limits allowed to sell beer.

However, residents voted last April to change that law.

Since then, 11 beer licenses have been granted in Sparta.

For most, the change has been beneficial, but for those just outside of town who were selling beer, their glass is a little less full.

The Sparta Co-op gas station has been able to use some of its cooler space to sell beer for just shy of a year now. The stores general manager, Bruce Towns, said beer sales have been good, but that’s not what’s most important about the new law.

“It’s been beneficial to business, but overall, it’s been beneficial to the customer,” Towns said.

Towns said there is probably only a handful of extra customers coming through the door each week now that the store is stocked up on cold beer.

On the opposite side of town, just past the Sparta city limit sign, is Fast Eddy’s.

Ed Habhegger, owner of Fast Eddy’s, has been selling beer since the early 60s with little to no local competition. Since last April, he has gained 11 new competitors, and it has hurt business.

“When they got their license, we did take a real big hit at first. We had a 41 percent drop in beer sales,” Habhegger said.

Habhegger said the first year was tough, but over the past few months, business has started to come back.

“Different types of advertisement, different types of promotions and just plain good, carry everything out for people, and tell a lot of stories,” Habhegger said.

Now that business is back up at Fast Eddy’s, not many have much to complain about, including the city police.

“Our numbers for underage alcohol citations have not gone up considerably or drunk driving gone up based on the stores. So as far as any issues at the stores, we have not had any,” Sparta Police Chief David Kuderer said.

“If that’s what’s good for the customer, that’s what’s good for us,” Towns said.

Towns said the only negative that he has seen so far is the cost to sell beer in his store. He said he must pay for the beer license each year on top of making sure his employees are bartender certified, a certification costing around $60 to $75 an employee, but he said at this point, the positives out weigh the negatives.

Kuderer said he hasn’t seen any issues that he can attribute to the sale of beer in town.