Council OKs alcohol sales at Horah St. store

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 20, 2011

By Emily Ford
SALISBURY ó A convenience store at 702 W. Horah St. received a nod from Salisbury City Council to sell alcohol, despite a recommendation from the Planning Board to the contrary.
Saying he is ěvery pro-business,î Mayor Paul Woodson said the city should grant Sultan Qasemís request for a special use permit to sell beer and wine.
ěWe have a right to go back and repeal this,î Woodson said.
The Neighborhood Market, which has been closed for two years, will create jobs and generate sales tax revenue, he said.
Qasem will manage the store for owner James OíNeil, who has owned it for 28 years. OíNeil closed the market in 2009 when he was diagnosed with cancer but plans to lease it to Qasem for a year with an option to buy.
The Planning Board last month voted against recommending the special use permit because members felt the applicants did not provide enough evidence to assure public health and safety.
But Councilman William ěPeteî Kennedy said he frequents Qasemís two other stores in East Spencer and both are well-run.
ěI have not seen any problem with any of his stores day or night,î Kennedy said. ěIím willing to support him to open his store.î
Mayor Pro Tem Susan Kluttz said the city needs to be careful about adding alcohol to fragile neighborhoods, and she has concerns about the storeís proximity to Livingstone College and a nearby church.
Council member Maggie Blackwell moved to table the issue until Police Chief Rory Collins could provide a police record for Qasemís stores in East Spencer and the marketís safety history when OíNeil ran it. Kluttz seconded the motion, but then withdrew her second when Kennedy and Councilman Brian Miller said they favored approving the permit.
ěWith Mr. Kennedy recommending that heís been there and heís familiar with it, Iím satisfied,î Miller said. ěIím willing to accept that as due diligence.î
Blackwell voted against the finding that the store would assure public health and safety and did not cast a vote on the special use permit, which counted as a yes.
OíNeil and his sister Vanessa Collier spoke in favor, as well as Qasem. No one spoke in opposition.
The store will be open from 7:30 to 12:30 a.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 to 8 or 9 p.m. Sunday.
ěIf the storeís run well, it can be a benefit and if itís run poorly, it will be a detriment,î Miller said. ěAnd the only way weíll know that is by giving him a chance.î
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.