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franklin county times

Store owner threatens to sue city over alcohol license

Members of a Russellville church opposed to a local business’s alcohol license request broke out in cheers at Monday night’s city council meeting after the approval of the license died for a lack of a second to the motion.

The alcohol license request made by TNS Mini Mart, which was formerly Ray’s Southside Grocery, first met opposition at the Nov. 7 council meeting from members of South Side Baptist Church, which sits 397 feet from the TNS Mini Mart building, according to church members.

The city’s ordinance requires there to be at least 300 feet between churches and establishments that sell alcohol, but interim pastor Daniel Welborn claimed if the alcohol license was approved, alcohol would be sold 187 feet from the church’s basketball court and play area.

“I’ve looked at this ordinance and, I’m no lawyer, but in Section 27 it states the city council shall consider the effects of alcohol sales upon residences within 500 feet of where it will be sold,” he said.

“I’m looking at each one of you individually to make this decision because it’s in your hands. Can you really tell me that it will benefit the people at that church to have alcohol sold 187 feet from where the children play?”

Welborn quoted from the Bible and told council members he had done what he felt he was supposed to do in standing up for the Lord and for what was right.

“This is a church that loves this community and that loves you. I know this is a hard decision and I pray for you every day but you’ve got to give us a chance.”

Tuscumbia attorney Billy Underwood was present at the meeting representing the owner of TNS Mini Mart, Salah N. Salah, and said the section of the ordinance pertaining to his client’s convenience store states the distance required between an establishment selling alcohol and a church is actually 100 feet instead of 300 feet.

“The 100 foot distance is the law as you passed it,” Underwood said. “That may not be popular to these church people, but this is a country of laws, I thought.”

Underwood went on to tell council members they had an obligation to uphold the law.

“When each of you took your oath of office, you vowed to uphold the law,” Underwood said. “Your city attorney has advised you that there is no reason this license can’t be granted to my client. My client has been checked by the fire chief and the police chief and you can’t say he has a disputable character or is without the proper insurance.

“There is no reason I can see that would prevent my client from receiving an alcohol license unless you just don’t want to uphold the law or unless you’re prejudiced.”

Underwood said his client is of Arabic lineage.

“You’re at a fork in the road,” Underwood continued. “But if you don’t [approve the alcohol license], you should know me well enough to know this won’t end here. If you’d don’t pass this, you will make me a lot of money.”

After the time for public comment ended, Mayor Troy Oliver asked for a vote of the approval of the alcohol license for TNS Mini Mart.

Councilman Lanny Hubbard made the motion but failed to receive a second and the matter died from lack of action by the council.

“I realize what the church is saying, but we took an oath under God to uphold the law,” Hubbard said, explaining his reason for making the motion.

“This business has met all the qualifications set by us and to deny him his license will make criminals out of us.

“This is not personally what I think, believe or even want, but if we break this law, what’s to stop us from breaking more? We can’t start breaking laws.”

As the meeting adjourned, the packed auditorium filled with many members from South Side Baptist Church cheered and clapped.

“We are glad the city council made the decision they did,” Welborn said. “From what I can tell, this alcohol issue has been one-sided so far, so this decision was something that needed to happen.”

Tuesday, Underwood said the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board would grant TNS Mini Mart their license due in spite of Monday’s outcome due to the fact the request wasn’t specifically denied by the council and only failed as a result of a lack of action.

However, Lt. Gene Schrieber with the ABC Board said that, by law, the board would only be able to grant TNS Mini Mart’s off-premise beer license. The off-premise wine license would have to be granted after an appeal by TNS Mini Mart to circuit court.

“As far as granting the beer license, the applicant has met all the criteria the state requires,” Schrieber said. “There doesn’t seem to be a problem there.”

Underwood expressed his extreme dissatisfaction with the Russellville city council, which he referred to as “a cesspool of racial segregationists posing as mild-mannered councilmen.”

Underwood said the council’s decision to take no action on the TNS Mini Mart alcohol license request was, in his opinion, racially charged.

“My infidel, non-Christian, Arab client was denied a license by the Bible-toting council who incidentally asked everyone to pray to God before the meeting, further slapping my Muslim client in the face,” Underwood said.

He added that he was planning to file racial discrimination lawsuits against each council member individually.

“Except for Councilman Lanny Hubbard, the mayor and remaining councilmen were all cowards,” Underwood said. “I would expect to see this kind of behavior back in 1965, but not now.”

Underwood said he planned to file the racial discrimination lawsuits within the next two weeks.

“It’s unfortunate that Mr. Underwood has jumped to a lot of conclusions, not only about members of the city council and their motives, but also about any alleged advice given by me to the council,” Russellville city attorney Danny McDowell said.

“Obviously, any advice by me would be confidential and he would not have been privy to that.”


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