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Airport liquor not yet available

Getting license requires ‘good bit of paperwork’

MARTINSBURG — It’s been almost a month since the May 21 primary and you still can’t buy a drink at the Altoona-Blair County Airport.

“When can I get a margarita?” has become a common question, airport Manager Tracy Plessinger said.

But the answer depends on the time needed to file an application with the state Liquor Control Board and the time needed to process the application.

“There’s a good bit of paperwork involved with the application,” LCB spokesman Shawn M. Kelly said Thursday.

Once the application is filed, the state will need at least 30 days to review the contents and research objections, if any, filed in response to the application.

In the May 21 primary, North Woodbury Township voters cast 244 votes in favor and 204 votes against allowing the airport to pursue its own liquor license for use at the airport only. Once secured, the airport’s liquor license will be the only one in the otherwise dry township.

Airport leaders have long been in favor of serving alcohol at the airport as a way to draw more customers to its restaurant, currently La Fiesta, and as an option to address nervous flyers.

While it’s not unusual for restaurants and bars to purchase existing liquor licenses, sometimes costing hundreds or thousands of dollars, that’s not the route that the airport authority is following.

“We will be applying specifically to the state for a license to use at the airport,” solicitor David Pertile said. “And we won’t be paying market value for a liquor license. Our cost should be substantially less.”

Kelly said the airport authority will need to submit a $700 fee with its application for an airport liquor license. If the state decides the airport has met the eligibility requirements, then Kelly said it will require payment of a license fee between $250 and $700, calculated on a to be determined population base.

The airport authority, which met last Monday night, agreed that Pertile should move ahead with the legal research so the application can be filed with the state as soon as possible.

The authority didn’t want to issue that directive earlier, authority Chairman Drew Swope said, in case the voters said no.

Kelly said the state will check the county’s certified election results to verify passage of the referendum. It also reviews site dimensions from the business where the alcoholic beverages will be sold. The process also calls for an examination of the airport’s governing structure and tax status.

“If everything is on track and checks out, then the airport will get a license,” Kelly said.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.

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