City doesn’t have power to deny legitimate business

Guest Editorial by Watertown Mayer Charlotte Johnson

Charlotte Johnson
Charlotte Johnson

We live in the “Land of an Open Market Economy.” The government, city government included, does not have the power to deny a legitimate business to operate in our city if the business meets city codes, city zoning ordinances, and regulations.

Now, many of us miss our hardware store and would like to have it back. However, again we live and do business in the “Land of an Open Market Economy.” If a business owner is not making a profit and decides to close his or her business that is the owner’s prerogative.  We, as a city government, cannot say to that business, “You must stay”; nor could we likely persuade another hardware store to come to Watertown if the previous store was not making a profit.

There have been some in the community who have questioned the city’s recent approval of a liquor store at the former hardware store. Comments coming to the City have ranged from a desire to maintain what was, to questions of whether another liquor store is needed.

The City has established regulations that it applies to every business equally. The new liquor store owner met these city regulations. Furthermore, understanding that the sale of alcohol in the community may carry unintended consequences, the city limits the number of licenses offered to four. Watertown Liquors has received the last license available at this time and the expansion of off-sale is effectively capped.

Some say that there may be more crime in Watertown if there is another liquor store; however, there has been no evidence that the present liquor store has created more crime in our City.

Therefore, while the City understands the concerns of those who wish for some alternative business, the implication that the City should somehow regulate exact use of a space could be seen as an overreach.

As a City, we welcome the newly named “Watertown Liquors” business as a partner in our local economy! The City of Watertown is moving forward economically; and soon just about all of our empty downtown stores will be taken. Hooray for Watertown!