Reporting Meghan McCorkell
BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Do more liquor stores mean more violence? Some city officials say yes. Now they’re considering a controversial new zoning proposal that could put more than 100 stores out of business.
Meghan McCorkell has more on the controversial idea.
According to business owners, that new proposal would just create more abandoned storefronts in the city, but some community leaders believe liquor stores are part of a greater problem.
For 33 years, House of Spirits in Canton has been family-owned.
But a new zoning proposal means the store could lose its liquor license.
“If we lose this store, it’s going to hit me hard. It’s going to hit me in the heart,” said Hakeim Abu Khdeir.
“It means cutting my throat. It’s like throwing me out on the street,” said Hakeim’s father, Muhammad Abu Khdeir, who owns the store.
They’re not alone. The zoning proposal would effectively strip the liquor licenses of 107 businesses in residential areas.
Thursday night, many of those business owners crowded a planning commission meeting.
The rezoning was a recommendation from the city health commissioner, who said there’s too many liquor stores in the city, and more liquor means more violence.
“It’s been no new surprise that communities are really quite concerned about violent crime that’s associated with alcohol outlets,” said city health commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot.
Some neighbors in the Park Heights community said they want the liquor stores gone.
“You know, in one block you have four liquor establishments. That is ridiculous,” said Park Heights Renaissance CEO Julius Colon.
Neighbors said the liquor stores have increased crime here.
“You will find in front of different liquor establishments drug dealing. You will find nuisance, a lot of undesirable activity,” said Colon.
But store owners disagree.
“I have a right, and I’m going to fight it all the way,” said Muhammad Abu Khdeir.
A fight to keep their doors open.
The City Council would need to approve the zoning proposal. That vote is not expected until sometime this summer.
The council’s first hearing on the liquor store rezoning plan is scheduled for April.