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Thursday, June 17, 2021

City denies west Ocala liquor store permit after public outcry

A liquor store that had hoped to open a new location in west Ocala was denied its permit request amidst an onslaught of public outcry.

The Ocala City Council denied the permit during its meeting on Tuesday, June 1, after nearly a dozen members of the public took to the podium to speak against the proposed liquor store.

“I did a little survey of churches in the neighborhood. There are about 12 churches that are in the vicinity of that place. The community says they do not want it,” said F. L. Brown, who owns Brown Memorial Funeral Home. Brown says he was made aware of the new liquor store when he was called by multiple concerned neighbors.

“I just want to inform you that the community says they do not want the liquor store there,” he reiterated to council.

Multiple residents asked the council to consider the high presence of children in the area, with one mother who lives nearby saying a liquor store next door to an existing liquor store would just bring more of a negative presence.

Curtis Jones posed a question to the council.

“Hasn’t the west side [of Ocala] been plagued with enough alcohol, homelessness and criminal activities?” asked Jones. “What would it benefit to introduce another liquor store in an area where there’s already one?”

Tye Chighizola, the city’s Director of Growth Management, indicated that a nearby liquor store around the corner has received about 42 incidents over a three year period that would be considered criminal, including an attempted murder and multiple theft and narcotics issues.

Councilman Ire Bethea agreed with those that spoke.

“I’m pretty sure you heard the community,” said Bethea to his fellow council members. “There is a liquor store on highway 27, and there’s ABC on 200, and every store for the most part sells beer and wine.” Bethea went on to say that the area was “inundated” with youth and that the city’s goal in the area should be “to make a better quality of life for the people that live” there.

After a brief discussion, the council unanimously agreed to deny the permit on the grounds of two specific provisions that allow the Ocala City Council to deny particular of businesses if they are within a certain distance of houses of worship and similar businesses. In this case, the city found that there were two churches (Intimacy House of Prayer and Glorious Hope Primitive Baptist Church) within 500 feet of the liquor store, as well as another liquor store (King Convenience Store).

The Discount Liquor Store that sought to open the west Ocala location had plans to operate Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to midnight, and Friday and Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. It would have been closed on Sundays.

According to city records, now that the alcoholic beverage location permit has been denied, the state of Florida will not issue a license and alcohol beverage sales will not be permitted at the location.