A store that sells a high volume of alcohol on the corner of 24th and Leavenworth streets will not have to submit a more strenuous application to renew its “Class D” liquor license—for now.
The Omaha City Council voted unanimously to table the request that owners of All Nations Grocery Liquor and Tobacco, located at 715 S 24th St, file a more scrupulous application until April 7.
Instead, community members and the corner store’s owners will meet in a city-mediated discussion to decide if requesting the business owners have their license questioned is the best solution to address alcohol adjacent issues in the neighborhood.
“I think it really will form the basis of a constructive dialogue at its core,” said City Councilman Chris Jerram who introduced the motion.
That meeting is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. on March 12 at Completely KIDS on 2566 St. Mary’s Ave.
City Council said it would use insights from that meeting to inform their April decision. If a request is made, the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission will still have the final say on the issue as Nebraska Statute only designates the city as a recommending body.
Testimony inside the legislative chambers on Tuesday, March 3 painted the downtown intersection as a major weight holding back neighborhood improvement. Residents and people who worked in the area repeated stories of seeing public intoxication, fights, littering and loitering. David Carrig who lives near the store said it’s not uncommon for him to call the police three times a day. Carrig said he regularly sees people drinking pints of vodka in the alley next to All Nations or clumping together at the nearby bus stop with alcohol from the store.
“Everybody in town knows this is a problem,” Carrig said.
Danielle Smith, who works at a nearby non-profit, said she’s faced sexual harassment on the corner for more than a year. In that time, people near the store have made uncomfortable comments, attempted to touch her and tried to solicit her for sex, she said.
When she relied on public transportation, Smith said she would wait inside a nearby coffee shop until the bus would come out of fear for her safety. And while across the street there’s another corner store that sells alcohol, both said All Nations’ sales spur more of these issues.
However, while All Nations sat at the center of the conversation, other community members saw them as a good partner in tackling the issues of alcoholism that have long plagued 24th and Leavenworth.
A sign of that came with All Nations decision to stop selling single servings of beer and hard alcohol. Owners Zee Wube and Berhanu Worknhe, who’ve owned the store since 2006, said they will stop carrying the large servings of malt liquor as well as hard liquor “shooters,” once they’ve sold the rest of their current stock.
They felt the complaints, which five different people filed, were unfair. They said
“Their safety is our safety,” said Wube. “Their problems are our problems.”
That attitude seems genuine to community members like David Ulferts, a board member with Quarters Neighborhood Association, the area’s neighborhood group. Originally he wanted the city to request All Nations file the longform application. However, moving away from single beer can and hard liquor sales has instilled confidence.
“They’re making an active effort to listen and have constructive conversations with us about how to better solve the bigger problem,” Ulferts said, “which is trying to improve public safety, decrease alcohol consumption and decrease litter throughout the neighborhood.”
Taste of Omaha gets Liquor License in Elmwood Park
The Omaha City Council also voted to approve a special designation liquor license for Taste of Omaha to operate in Elmwood Park from May 29 to 31. With the Riverfront Revitalization Project pushing many events to find new homes, Taste of Omaha sought Elmwood Park for its size and ample parking.
The event, which will mark 23 years of showcasing Omaha’s food and drink this May, has worked with the neighborhood associations and community organizations around the park said Mike Mancuso, a producer with Mid-America Expositions, Inc. which organizes the event.
“We worked with a lot of different neighbors and, in working through the plan, made a lot of adjustments,” he said.
Those adjustments include starting the event later on Friday at 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday’s festivities will end at 11 p.m. while Sunday’s ends at 8 p.m.
Omaha Parks and Recreation Director Brook Bench also said Park’s is committed to making sure any damage to the park is fixed immediately.
“Will there be some damage done to the turf? Yes,” Bench said. “That happens at Memorial Park that happens with thousands of events that we do in our park system. We will get it fixed as soon as possible and get it up and ready and looking good as soon as the event’s over.”