Monday, February 20, 2012

After Almost Three Years Of Opposition, AK Food Mart In Bay View Expected To Get Beer License

Bay View grocery store on step closer to get beer license after years of opposition.

By H. Nelson Goodson
February 20, 2012

Bay View - On Sunday, Alderman Tony Zielinski from the 14th Aldermanic District posted on Facebook that AK Food Mart at 2305 S. Howell Avenue is one step closer to get a Class "A" Malt license. The license, if approved by the Milwaukee Common Council would allow the owner, Jesse Singh to provide beer at his corner grocery store.
Singh, a native of India in the last year has remodeled the inside and outside of the AK Food Mart. On Thursday, Zielinski held a community public meeting at the Bay View library where at least 21 residents and business owners from the area attended. Alderman Zielinski confirmed that most of those attending voted to approve for Singh to get the beer license, except one who abstained.
Singh for almost three years had been struggling to get a beer license, but had earlier confronted opposition by Alderman Zielinski and area business owners that led to a beer license refusal by the Common Council Licensing Committee. Shortly after, another new tavern a block away got a license in 2009, which south side residents supporting Singh cried foul and alleged discrimination.
In mid December 2009 during a public hearing in the City Licensing Committee, Alderman Zielinski used the Southeast Side Comprehensive Area Development Plan (SSCADP) adopted by the Common Council to influence the denial of granting a Class “A” Malt license to AK Food Mart. The SSCADP plan was considered discriminatory and would lead to racial and economic disparity in the south side.
At that time, Zielinski supported  Michael J. Maierle, Urban Planner for the Department of City Development reason to deny Singh a beer license. Maierle testified in the licensing meetiing and said that “the corner streets of S. Kinnickinnic, W. Lincoln, and S. Howell Ave. are a key focal point for Bay View ongoing redevelopment and retail effort, and plans recommend improving this intersection with public and private investment. Non of these community redevelopment strategies is furthered by granting a malt alcoholic beverage to a second store in such close proximity to another. Granting a license wouldn’t improve the goal of the plan.”
South Side residents claimed that using the Near South Side Area Advisory Plan discriminated minority owners and was being used as a tool to deny and deprive other small business licenses.
At that time, Singh had been operating the grocery store for almost 18 years. The Southeast Side Comprehensive Area Plan was a key factor to deny a beer license to AK Food Mart business, according to the Licensing Committee meeting.
Trendy business owners including Lulu’s Cafe, and other area estate owners had invested millions of dollars on S. Kinnickinnic and W Lincoln. They opposed the sale of cheap beer and referred to AK Food Mart as not fitting with the development plan in the area. Hispanics and non-Latino small business owners in the south side were facing the same consequences.
Singh owns a primary development economic corner where both the AK Food Mart and a Mexican restaurant are located.
Shortly after Singh was denied a beer license in 2009, Zielinski without informing area residents about a liquor and beer license application managed to approved a license for a new trendy bar called “Tonic Tavern,” which was under construction a block West of AK Food Mart at the address 2335 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. and W Lincoln Ave. In that same 2300 block, the Highbury Pub, Grand Cafe Centraal, and Dee’s Wine Shop had liquor licenses to sell both alcohol and beer.
Paul Jonas, owner of the Tonic Tavern happened to be the brother of Sarah Jonas, owner of Lulu's Cafe who strongly opposed granting AK Food Mart a beer license.

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