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Baltimore Liquor Store Owners Upset About Proposed Zoning Changes

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Derek Valcourt 370x278 Derek Valcourt
Derek Valcourt began working at WJZ in September 2002. His first major...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — There’s anger from owners of dozens of neighborhood corner liquor stores. They say a proposed change in city zoning could put them out of business.

Derek Valcourt explains the city’s proposal and why many of Baltimore’s Korean-Americans are outraged.

In short, Korean-Americans own almost all of the corner liquor stores we’re talking about and they say they’re being unfairly targeted.

Dozens and dozens of corner liquor stores were grandfathered into city zoning changes back in 1971. Now, more than 40 years later, a new city zoning plan would effectively strip the liquor license from many of those stores.

“It is frustrating,” said Michelle Ha.

Michelle Ha owns one of the affected stores, Kay’s Liquor on Biddle Street.

“This is our life for my whole family,” Ha said.

City planners point to research studies that show a link between violent crime and neighborhoods with high concentrations of liquor stores.

“Our way to try to address that from the public health perspective is to use zoning as one tool to try to get rid of those concentrations where they really don’t belong,” said Director of Planning Tom Stosur.

Under the new zoning proposal, neighborhood stores with grandfathered liquor licenses would have up to two years to either stop selling liquor, move their store to an area zoned for liquor or sell their liquor license to someone else.

KAGRO—The Korean American Grocer’s Assocation—calls the zoning proposal unfair. They say their members have done a lot to give back to Baltimore.

“And now we feel kind of stabbed in the back from the city,” said Jay Park.

“It doesn’t have anything to do with who owns a property or who operates it,” Stosur said.

Stosur says he’s ready to work with the store owners to see how they can help each other.

KAGRO says 100 of their unhappy members will be meeting about this very issue Wednesday at the Greenmount Senior Center at 2 p.m.

The city’s director of planning says the new zoning proposal won’t be officially introduced to the city council until the fall.

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