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Beer, wine sales OK’d at hookah lounge; City Council must give final nod

SALISBURY — Despite a lengthy complaint from neighbors, the Salisbury Planning Board voted Tuesday to allow a new downtown hookah lounge to sell beer and wine.
The King Tut Cafe and Hookah Lounge opened Friday at 5 Easy Street, the former home of A Step in Time gift shop. A hookah lounge — a place where people smoke flavored tobacco from a shared pipe — doesn’t need approval from the city, but wine and beer sales do.
Robert Crum and Cherie Turner have argued against alcohol sales at King Tut during two planning board meetings and a committee meeting, totaling about five hours. But planning board member David Post said the couple did not prove that alcohol sales at King Tut would lower the value of their property next door.
“There was no evidence presented in any fashion that would indicate harm in any of those areas,” said Post, who served on the committee that studied the issue.
After the committee’s report, the planning board voted to recommend that City Council issue a special use permit for beer and wine sales at King Tut. City Council will take up the issue July 16, including a public hearing.
All planning board members voted to recommend approval except Randy Reamer, who recused himself at Crum’s request, and Patricia Ricks, who abstained.
The hookah lounge is tucked under and behind 118 E. Council St., which stands next to Crum and Turner’s property at 116 E. Council St.
Crum and Turner have a longstanding dispute with Henry and Karen Alexander, who own 118 E. Council St. and 5 Easy Street. Karen Alexander is a City Council member and a former member of the planning board.
Planning board members noted that there are seven security cameras at the Alexanders’ property, and King Tut does not plan to change the exterior of the building.
Committee members said they asked Crum and Turner to provide evidence that beer and wine sales would harm their property, but instead, parking concerns took up most of the committee meeting. Members said they determined that parking is irrelevant to allowing beer and wine sales.
Reamer reluctantly recused himself from Tuesday’s planning board meeting. He disagreed with Crum’s assertion that he had a bias.
Reamer, an attorney, represented the Alexanders in a lawsuit brought by Crum and Turner. Reamer said he no longer represents the Alexanders and has an understanding of the property that could be helpful in planning board deliberations.
However, he agreed to recuse himself to avoid a disagreement.
Crum and Turner sued the Alexanders in 2010 over access to alleys in the vicinity of 114, 116 and 118 E. Council St. After two and a half years of litigation, a judge ruled that neither party could block the others’ access to the alleys and awarded no money to either couple.
After Tuesday’s vote, Crum said planning board members misrepresented his concerns and he plans to pursue his opposition at City Council.
Karen Alexander said Crum provided misinformation about the lawsuit.
King Tut features more than 50 flavors of tobacco, according to owner Hamdy Kishk of Charlotte. The lounge is open from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Friday, 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday and 5 p.m. to midnight Sunday.
King Tut serves sandwiches and pizza. Customers must be 18 years or older, unless accompanied by an adult.

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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