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No New Liquor Licenses, Plead Smithfield Estates Residents

By Dylan Baggiano

Photo: Ellen Spencer, president of the Smithfield Estates neighborhood, speaks to the Public Safety Committee, taken from livestream

Preventing more liquor stores from entering the Smithfield Estates area will preserve the family friendly atmosphere of the community, according to some Smithfield Estates residents, who agreed with the Public Safety Committee’s recommendations to deny liquor licenses to two Family Dollar locations at the meeting Tuesday.

The Family Dollar Stores in question, located at 1556 Bankhead Highway W and at 3124 Alemeda Ave SW, respectively, are owned by John Milledge. The employees and managers at both locations said they did not want the alcohol permits to be granted, according to the inspection records given in the meeting. Because Smithfield Estates and Germania Park are family-oriented, home to many families for over a decade, adding more liquor stores to the community will bring unwanted visitors that will threaten the reputation it has built, some residents said, during the meeting.

Ellen Spencer, president of the Smithfield Estates neighborhood association, said her neighborhood relies on stores like Family Dollar for food since it resides in a food dessert, or an area with a limited number of brick-and-mortar grocery stores.

“Adding beer and wine to the stores would not be in the best interest for our neighborhood,” Spencer said. “I came face-to-face with a robber when I was shopping, one day. Children and elderly people frequent these stores. The community is family friendly and we want it to stay that way.”

Milledge, the owner, said he did not consult his stores’ staff prior to the meeting about this issue, but he did present his plans to the Smithfield Estates neighborhood association and the Germania Park neighborhood association. Both were concerned with robberies, cleanliness, and safety, according to Councilman Hunter Williams.

Bernice Ashford, a long-time resident of Smithfield Estates, said the committee needs to consider the elderly in their decision.

“The community is full of retired, elderly people, who just want to enjoy the rest of their lives here,” Ashford said. “Having those young men with their pants dropping down coming out of that junky store (one of the Family Dollar locations) will decrease the value of those peoples’ homes.”

Linda Mason, an elderly resident, said she wants to ensure protection for families going in and out of the shops.

“There isn’t any security in these stores,” Mason said. “Instead of focusing on alcohol, they need to clean the property, get security and make sure the employees have some sense of safety at work. You got these young guys going in and out of there, looking crazy.”

Councilman Williams said he does not foresee the entire city council disagreeing with the decision to deny alcohol sales at the two shops, based on the police activity there.

“There is a real possibility of nuisance and safety hazards for residents in both adjacent to and living in the neighborhood,” Williams said.

Granting liquor licenses to additional stores will contribute to the decline of the local neighborhoods, according to Councilman John Hilliard.

“The store employees know what is killing the African American community—drugs and alcohol have always been terrible things for the neighborhood,” Hilliard said. “We don’t want to bring any more activity to the community that would further drive down our property values.”

The next public safety committee meeting will be held at City Hall on Dec. 1 at 3:30 p.m. and can be attended in person with the observance of social distancing guidelines, or online, at the Birmingham City Council’s Facebook page.

Edited by Hannah Warren & Ryan Michaels

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