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Running commentary on an ABC appeal hearing

04/04/2006 7:31 PM by

In the ongoing saga of the fight over the ABC license of the corner store at 2300 Venable Street (see 1,000,000 bottle bags), there was an appeal hearing on the original ruling.

We enter the room at 3:25pm. 3 black or dark blue leather chairs (I’m slightly color blind) sit on a raised diaz behind a counter, facing into the room. In front of this sits a podium, facing the judge chairs. There is a chair to the side with microphone, as if for a witness. There are two tables with mics flanking the podium. The room is decked out with an American flag and a standard square-tile drop ceiling. With seating for almost 100, there were 7 people present (including me), one of whom was Lt. Snawder of the 1st Precinct/Sector 111. Ann, of Union Hill, 3 other Union Hill residents, me from Fairmount. Venable Avenue, 23rd and 22nd Streets are all well represented.

The judges enter the room: all 3 are women, 2 are African-American. What a nice surprise; I think judge and picture some old white guy.

A court lady starts talking at the podium, describing the case so far. A lot of legal and specific talk, I catch something about the potential disruption of “the usual quietude and tranquility of such area” (speaking of Venable). This hearing is not to rehear the case, but to state why the original ruling should be amended.

The store owner is a clean-cut man in a blazer and glasses, with a French name pronounced “Jay”. Mr.Klieb states that he doesn’t speak English well enough to speak before the court, has a written statement.

Ann Wortham, the official complaintant, sits at the other chair, to the audiance left.

Ann speaks first, on the 2 points of objections (that basically the store being there will lead to bad things happening in the area [litter, defacating/pissing, fighting]). She has objective and subjective complaints, quality of life issues and facts about the impact of the store (some of which is quoted here).

Ann presents a map showing incidents in the area that allegedly relate to the cleintelle of the store. Most of the calls are for drunkeness and/or disorderly conduct. Anne says, “When alcohol is sold from the store, problems occur”. Mr. Klieb objects to the map’s hand-drawn quality. Ann cites and quotes studies and facts. Simply, the area has many places to purchase alcohol (7 places). There are 7 stores of any kind in the area, all of which sell alcohol. When there are many places to buy alcohol, bad things happen — underage drinking, loitering.

Center Judge says that they know many of the facts, please make your point.

Anne reiterates “Alcohol causes problems when sold from this location”.

Center Judge calls into question whether any of the previous probelems associated with the store at that area are the fault of the current owner.

Ane spends few more minutes talking about drunken people fighting and urinating in public.

The judge to audiance left asks about neighborhood support and Ann indicates that those present in the audiance are from the neighborhood.

Mr.Klieb rises to speak. That English is not his native language is apparent, but he is well spoken. He states that he has a Master in Journalism, has kids, is educated, is “proud of this country”.

He tells the judges that he bought the store for $65,000 on April 18, 2005, and “can’t be held responsible for previous owner”. He also says that sonce losing his ABC license that he had lost $500/day in alcohol sales and is heading towards bankruptcy from the lost sales. He also refers to a petition presented at the original meeting that was signed by 259 residents, a portion of whom live on Venable Street.

One issue from the original meeting that kept recurring and that felt incongruous is that of the public phone outside of the store. Klieb states that he provides the public phone as a community service, citing an inident of a man using the phone to call for medical help. He seems to feel put upon, states that this seems personal. He mentions that he has said before that “your problem is my problem”, that he had intended to buy the building and to live upstairs with his family. All in all he is a sympathetic figure: he purchased this business thinking that he would be able to carry on as before, but the ground has shifted under him.

Judge Right asks if vacant buildings contribute to the problems of the area. Klieb says no, mentions that there is a bus stop on the street. Prompted, Klieb says that he has not seen problems with drunkeness or loitering.

Judge Right asks Lt.Snawder to the center podium, he is sworn in. Judge Right asks about the vacant buildings. Snawder says that it is “ludicrous” to say that there is no loitering or drunkeness, dealing, etc. He refers to the community’s outcry and description of common problems, specifically loitering and drunkeness. He mentions that there are many ABC llisenced establishments in the area, and that the area has many realted issues. He mentions that there are other areas of the Hill that have ABC stores yet never generate problem calls.

Judge Center, tossing a soft one for Klieb, asks Lt.Snawder if he is talking about the area or the specific store, reminding us that ABC licenses are given to poeple.

Judge Left asks if the presence of another ABC license on the street probably affects the likely regeneration of the area. Snawder says that that Venable Street, like, totally sucks and that another ABC licence would only make it suckier (my words not his, I was a bit loopy at this point).

Ann rebuts some things. Klieb then rebuts some things.

A written ruling will be given within 30 days.

We adjurn at 4:24 pm.


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