SNOW HILL — Concerns that allowing alcohol back into a troubled area could ignite old problems led the Worcester County Board of License Commissioners (BLC) to deny an applicant seeking a beer and wine license.
Chaudhary Warraich, who, along with his wife, owns the “Your Stop” convenience store in Snow Hill, made an attempt Wednesday to secure a seven-day beer and wine license from the BLC.
Attorney Joe Moore, representing Warraich, presented the BLC with 70 signatures on a petition asking that the Your Stop be granted a license to sell alcohol. Moore pointed out that the next closest store with a beer/wine license was approximately one mile away. With many of the residents in the area lacking transportation, Moore argued this constituted a serious inconvenience, since a large number of customers were forced to walk a mile either way to purchase alcohol even though Your Stop was closer.
Moore also highlighted Warraich’s great track record with the store, pointing out that he has already owned the Your Stop for two years and has received generally favorable reviews from his neighbors.
Many of those same neighbors were in attendance at the meeting, though, and while all agreed Warraich was expertly managing the store, several spoke in protest of granting him a license.
“We’re in a predominantly depressed part of town,” said Snow Hill resident Mark Nixon, who also owns an auto-repair business in the area. “Since 05 it’s been peaceful around our house.”
Prior to 2005, however, Nixon asserted that his neighborhood suffered from serious crime from drug dealings to shootings. He attributed much of the problem to the climate generated by the sale of alcohol from the Your Stop and another local store, both of which were shutdown in 2005 as a result of criminal activity by the owners.
Because the Your Stop was not under Warraich’s control at the time, Nixon clarified that he did not blame him for those troubles. But Nixon did maintain that bringing alcohol back into the neighborhood could reopen a can of worms.
“I don’t want to see it come to that hell again,” he told the BLC.
Snow Hill Councilwoman Rebecca Bowman spoke as a citizen in opposition.
“It’s a blighted area of town,” she said.
Since alcohol was removed from the neighborhood in 2005, however, Bowman pointed out Snow Hill had been able to reduce the police presence in the area by 60 percent because of the decline in criminal activity.
Like Nixon, Bowman asserted that she took no issue with Warraich or the way he currently runs his store. Her worry was what reintroducing alcohol might mean, saying that it “exacerbates the [crime] issue. … We want to keep moving forward. I think this is a step backward.”
Resident Robert Shockley added, “You’ve got to live here to know what it’s like.” He questioned what could be done if having alcohol on hand started to attract all of the old, bad elements. Because a license is not usually revoked if the negativity associated with it was not the owner’s fault, Shockley asserted it would be better to simply not issue the license.
“You cannot condemn him [Warraich] for something someone else has done,” said Kittora Bonneville, who would serve as Warraich’s resident agent in the event his license request was approved. While she admitted that having alcohol at Your Stop under its previous owner had hurt the community, she felt that those issues would not surface this time around.
As a result of the public opposition, in an unanimous vote, the board declined Warraich’s request, citing a lack of public need.