By LESLIE COLLINS
February 27, 2013
City Council members called the situation bizarre. They couldn’t believe it.
“Some of us were skeptical she (City Council member Melba Curls) had her facts right because it sounded so bizarre that an attorney could pay people for their (liquor) consents and not be in violation of the (city) ordinance,” City Council member Ed Ford said.
Flyers posted in the Oak Park neighborhood boasted residents could earn $50 in five minutes. All they had to do was sign a liquor consent to allow a nearby convenience store to sell packaged liquor.
“When we set up the liquor consent ordinance years ago we never conceived that someone would be paying people for the consents,” Ford said.
Curls could hardly believe it herself. She first learned about the scheme from her friend who lives in the Oak Park neighborhood. The convenience store’s previous attempts to secure a liquor license were squelched by area neighbors.
“She said, “They’re at it again. Now, they’re offering us money,’” Curls said of her friend.
The lawyer said he was paying the residents for their time, and while it wasn’t technically illegal, city council members opposed the method.
“We want people to consent because it’s good for the neighborhood and the district and will create jobs,” Ford said. “Those should be the considerations, not because someone’s paying them $50 to consent.”
To address the loophole, Curls, Ford and several other council members have sponsored an ordinance to amend the city’s Chapter 10 Code of Ordinances regarding consents required for a liquor license.
The revised ordinance states applicants must provide a notarized statement that all submitted consent forms are from eligible property owners or tenants and that none of the consents were obtained by providing, either directly or indirectly, anything of value, which may include but is not limited to compensation, gift, loan, favor, privilege, service, among others.
“This is a common sense change,” City Council member Scott Taylor said.
Regulated Industries Manager Gary Majors said he commended the Oak Park neighborhood for standing up to the convenience store and refusing to accept the bribe. As a result of the neighborhood’s unified stance, the convenience store failed to secure a liquor license, he said.
“This (amendment) really helps a great deal in shoring up and making sure the ordinance does what it’s intended to do,” Majors said.
The amended ordinance will go before the full council this Thursday.