Despite opposition, the proposed liquor store on Soutel Drive received the votes needed to waive it

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Some people who live in a Northside community off Sooutel Drive say the last thing they want is a fifth liquor store.

It was approved on Thursday. Some say adding the store will only harm the community by attracting crime and violence. But a waiver needed to open the store received the 5-3 majority votes needed after a second planning commission meeting. The waiver had to be opened in a location less than 500 feet from a church.

During the meeting there was more opposition from the community.

“I’m angry that the commissioners couldn’t see our perspective on why they shouldn’t put a liquor store next to a liquor lounge where seven shootings took place and four people lost their lives,” Tyrona Clark-Murray said with Northwest Citizens Planning Advisory Committee.

There were also discussions among the commissioners. Some opposed this at the second meeting, including Commissioner Ian Brown.

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“If they need it (a business renunciation) and the church has come out and nobody was in favor of it, I’m just going to stick with where I was, so I’m not going to support it,” Brown said.

Commissioner Jordan Elsbury supported this.

“If we’re basing our decisions on what’s legally allowed to go somewhere and looking at the deviation that’s based on a church leader or people in the community coming out and opposing it, that’s not our job. Our job is to listen to them, hear their disagreements and make a decision. If a leader of a church shows up or doesn’t show up and that’s how we pick or choose which stores are legally available to open – I don’t think any of us signed up for that. I will support it,” Elsbury said.

Brown fired back, saying that Elsbury misinterpreted the instructions.

“If what Commissioner Elsbury said were true, we should be sitting here. So obviously it can’t just be opened by rights, they need us to vote on it, so by rights it’s not really true, yeah, but they need that, so they can’t just do what you said, was inherently wrong,” Braun said.

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Clark-Murray shared video of a neighborhood crowd on Easter Sunday. She said it was typical to see and it would be a problem if there was violence.

According to records from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office as of January 1, 2017, there were more than 100 service calls at the location, which has applied for a liquor store license.

“We’re appealing. Second, we want to file a harassment complaint against the current liquor lounge,” Clark-Murray said.

Paul Harden, who represented the property‘s owner at the meeting, Anwar Properties, said it was a property rights issue, but community leaders said they would not give up.

Pastor Aloysious Denard of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church said his church would be affected by the liquor deal. He released a statement that reads:

“The church and community are absolutely devastated by the commission’s approval of another liquor store to be added in our neighborhood. We are working so hard to eliminate the negative influences that will potentially affect our children and the quality of life in the area. It is truly disheartening that all respect for God, community and humanity no longer exists or counts as long as it generates revenue. It’s like walking into a brick wall and the community’s voice falling on deaf ears. This is just the beginning. We will continue to strive and fight for our community, churches, children and the many seniors who live in the area until the difference we all desire is made.”

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A request for comment from Anwar Properties was not answered by the publication of this article.

It is important to note that the commissioners did not have to vote yes, but despite concerns from the church and community, the commissioners granted the company the opportunity to open the packaged liquor business.

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