ALBANY, GA (WALB) – Albany City Commissioners are scheduled to decide whether to allow a controversial liquor store in east Albany.
Entrepreneur Alex Rowe wants to tear down the dilapidated China Palace Restaurant at Oglethorpe and Radium Springs to build the store, but Albany State University and a nearby church oppose it. He appealed the city's initial denial of a business license.
Both sides spent two and a half hours Tuesday morning arguing their sides to the commission, the business feels they're being unfairly singled out, while ASU and the local church say they just can't support a liquor store.
"Do we really benefit as a community with yet a another liquor store?" questioned ASU Criminal Justice Professor Dr. Glen Zuern.
Albany State's President, Professors, and students refused to back down, standing firm that a new liquor store so close to their campus is intolerable.
"A liquor store, a package store, where you drive in and drive out doesn't work in the best interest of the community in which it is being proposed," said ASU President Dr. Everette Freeman.
It's 800 feet from Union Missionary Baptist Church which also opposes the store despite it meeting the city's legal requirements. City Attorney Nathan Davis said today that's only part of it.
"Some out there think well if you meet the proximity rule then it's basically automatic after that and that's absolutely not the correct viewpoint," said Albany City Attorney Nathan Davis.
Liquor Store owner Alex Rowe sees it differently.
"I don't understand why my business is being targeted and from the opposition I've gotten you would think I was trying to open up a bad establishment," said Rowe.
They have a petition signed by 500 area supporters and the nod from neighboring businesses.
"Take a nasty building with busted windows down, I didn't ask what kind of building it was, $600,000, come on give me a break there's no asterisk on the tax record that says oohh this is going to be a liquor store," said Darsey Oil Owner, Chuck Darsey.
Rowe explained his business is primarily check cashing, offering a low rate. His attorney showed the commission surveillance video taken by a hired investigator that reveals what they believe to be drug activity in the parking lot that's now become overflow parking for Big Daddy's, something Rowe's promised security to fight against.
"What we're merely stating to this commission is we're not picking on these other businesses but what we are saying is we're bragging on ourselves, we've operated a business in a legitimate and fair fashion for a long time," said Rowe's Attorney Christopher Cohilas.
Whether commissioner will see it that way or go with public opinion will be determined Tuesday night.
One thing worth pointing out, one of the commissioner that's been vocally opposed to this liquor store is Tommy Postell. He was the only commissioner not at the denial hearing.
Rowe's lawyers told commissioners the new store would likely bring in $180,000 in sales tax revenue a year.