Gary liquor store bypasses city council, could open today
By Michelle L. Quinn Post-Tribune correspondent September 4, 2012 9:52PM
Updated: September 4, 2012 10:28PM
GARY — The third Economy Package Liquors can open as soon as it gets its business license, which could be as early as Wednesday.
On Tuesday, the city council rescinded its Aug. 22 vote that killed Alex and Omar Tadros’ special-use variance to open the mega liquor store at 5150 Broadway. After the vote, it was learned a special-use variance was never required.
The Zoning Department misread a recodification in the city ordinance, which directly opposed state law that makes clear municipalities “shall not enact an ordinance which in any way regulates, restricts enlarges, enforces or limits the holder of a liquor retailer’s permit,” Council President Kyle Allen said. The Tadros’ liquor license, which was in escrow and not a new license, was granted by the state in 2011.
Therefore, it never should’ve come before the council.
“We exceeded our authority,” Allen said.
Discussion became heated after the vote was reconsidered, with the council calling security on school board candidate Robert Campbell. Resident Paul Kwabena Pratt commended the council for voting it down in the first place but then took them to task for not fighting against the store’s opening.
The Tadroses employ primarily Gary residents at their two stores in the city as well as three Gary residents at their Merrillville business.
There are currently 12 liquor stores that hold licenses in the city, said zoning director Joe Van Dyk said. At least another four are operating without them. Both Economy Package Liquor stores are licensed.
A second hotly contested ordinance – one that would establish a $75 fee on every rental unit, among a host of other fees – was deferred by the council and sent back to the Finance Committee. Councilwoman Marilyn Krusas, D-1st, said that while she thought the people working on the ordinance are capable, there are practical realities that need to be addressed in the ordinance before making it into law.
“It’s not a criticism, but I think it needs more planning,” she said.
Ordinance sponsor Allen said that he continues to welcome constructive criticism with regard to the process, he wants to see it implemented.
“Gary has slumlords, and it has good landlords, but we can’t cherry-pick enforcement,” he said. “The law has to apply fairly to all, but it will apply.”
Resident Edna Williams, who lives in Woodlake Apartments, came to the meeting to speak on behalf of a homebound, elderly neighbor. Williams said the neighbor thinks the ordinance is a good idea but should be limited only to slumlords, who aren’t subject to stringent inspections as the people living in HUD housing.
State law allows landlords to pass on any fees to its residents, she said.