Selling beer at store ‘cultural,’ owner says|[7/06/05]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 6, 2005

The owner of a shop in Marcus Bottom says she will appeal a decision that could forever block the sale of beer at the neighborhood store.

The Vicksburg Zoning Board voted unanimously Tuesday night to deny the request from property owner Alma Cash to rezone the store at 1720 Military Ave. for commercial use. Today, the store is grandfathered into a residential zone, but because of a lapse in the store’s beer permit, officials have declined to renew it.

Cash, of Hahnville, La., has owned the property since the mid-1980s. She said selling beer at a neighborhood store is cultural and should be allowed in the Marcus Bottom neighborhood.

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“This is a cultural thing, and you don’t know black culture unless you are black and you live among black people,” Cash said.

Patrick Granberry, 2619 Roosevelt Ave., leases the property from Cash and had been allowed to sell beer there until 2002 when, according to city records, his beer permit expired. Granberry said a mistake made by the city caused the lapse and that he should be allowed to continue selling beer.

Granberry said he also wants to put in a pool table.

In order to make those changes, Cash had asked for the property to be rezoned, but Zoning Board member Jack Burrell, citing state law, said the request could not be approved unless there had been changes in the neighborhood from mostly residential to commercial.

Former Mayor Robert Walker, 2614 Togo St., said the store is already a gathering place for people at night and presents problems.

“Don’t our children deserve something better than to be faced with beer all the time when they are already smothered by drug use and loud music?” Walker asked.

Walker, who this month began work for Jackson Mayor Frank Melton as chief administrator, lives less than a block from the store. He has opposed previous attempts by Cash to rezone the property.

Beer is sold at other stores less than a mile from Cash’s property, but she said residents in the neighborhood want alcohol available there. She presented the Zoning Board with a petition, but board member Casey Fisher said many of the signatures were not of residents in that neighborhood.

Also, the petition stated that signers supported keeping the store open, but did not specify beer sales. City Attorney Nancy Thomas said that under current rules and permits, Granberry may continue selling food.

Cash has 10 days to appeal the Zoning Board’s decision to the City Clerk’s Office. The appeal would next go before the Board of Mayor and Aldermen during a public hearing.