The Phenix City Council approved on Tuesday an off-premise beer and wine licenses for Don’s Fine Foods on Fourth Avenue.
The license was approved 3-1 with Council member Gail Head voting against it. Mayor Eddie Lowe and Councilmembers Chris Blackshear and Arthur Day voted for it. The approval came over objections of Ralph Morris, a nearby resident who objected on behalf of himself and nearly 50 neighbors.
The licenses were awarded to Moneeb Tariq, who owns the Sherwood Shopping Center where the store is located. It closed more than a year ago because of a drop off in business after an October 2012 police raid of an adjacent barber shop.
The raid uncovered drug and other criminal activity.
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Morris said the reopening of the store fuels concerns about the unruly behavior and the criminal element.
“Should you grant him his licenses, we are certain Don’s Fine Foods will degenerate into what it was before, or heaven forbid, something worse,” Morris said.
Phenix City Police Chief Ray Smith and Lowe assured Morris that his concerns had been heard and the city would closely monitor the situation once the store reopens.
“I challenge you to make sure this is done above board,” Lowe told Tariq.
The business owner was represented by Columbus attorney Richard M. Kemmer III. One of the reasons council members gave for approval was the possibility of legal action if Tariq met the qualifications for the licenses and it was denied.
The city has faced a similar suit in the past and lost a court battle, City Attorney Jimmy Graham told council during a Monday work session when the matter was discussed.