Corner store’s request to sell alcohol draws divided opinion on Freret corridor

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Alba Xiomara helps Rahee Hall, 11, at Super Mercado Las Acacias on March 11, 2011. Hall lives three blocks from the store. (Sabree Hill, UptownMessenger.com)

A Freret Street corner store will request the city’s permission this week to begin selling alcohol, drawing reactions that vary widely from sympathetic support and to outright opposition from its neighbors.

The owners of the building that houses SuperMercado Las Acacias at the corner of Robert and Freret Street are scheduled to appear before the City Planning Commission on Tuesday afternoon to request a conditional use for alcohol sales, a necessary step before obtaining an actual liquor license. Shoppers want to be able to buy alcoholic drinks, said store owner Alba Xiomara last week, and the store’s early participation in the Freret commercial corridor’s resurgence should earn it the right to fulfill its customers’ wishes, she said.

John Tillman, who lives on Valence St., rides his wheelchair to Super Mercado Las Acacias on March 11, 2011. Tillman said he goes to the store almost everyday and that if he had to cross Claiborne to go to other similar stores it would be dangerous for him. "We need a store here," said Tillman. (Sabree Hill, UptownMessenger.com)

Further, the store would carry only beer and wine, Xiomara said, and she has signatures from hundreds of customers who support alcohol sales at the business.

“This is something needed for the kind of neighborhood that is here now,” Xiomara said. “I have been here three years, and I was the only thing that was here. I brought a lot of traffic to Freret Street – a lot of people have come here because of me.”

The Freret Business and Property Owner Association, however, plans to oppose the change on Tuesday, said board member Kellie Grengs. Problems with a previous convenience store in the same location still haunt some business owners’ memories, Grengs said, but more important is a desire to maintain the property uses laid out in the Freret Arts and Cultural Overlay District passed in late 2007.

“It’s going to look like we have egg on our faces if we allow spot zoning, as if we knew exactly what we wanted two years ago, and now we’re flip-flopping,” Grengs said. “I’m not sure how a new package store promotes arts and cultural uses.”

Grengs asked for association members’ opinions by email, and got a wide range of opinions in response – all of which she said she forwarded to the planning commission. A number of members said they were strongly opposed to allowing packaged-liquor sales at the store, for some of the following reasons:

  • The liquor license would stay with the building, allowing another, less responsible operator to continue selling alcohol if Las Acacias left.
  • A perceived proliferation of package-liquor stores could discourage residential redevelopment, particularly between Freret and Claiborne.
  • Inconsistent enforcement by the city could leave wide latitude for violations to go unaddressed.

Other members argued for allowing limited alcohol sales, based on various reasons and conditions:

  • The store is the only market-style store in the area, but could have a difficult time staying afloat without liquor sales.
  • The permit could include a requirement that beer be sold at room temperature, to discourage on-premises consumption.
  • Provisos could be added to require grocery-style daytime hours, rather than late-night hours like a quick stop, or prohibit any electronic games, to discourage loitering.

Xiomara responded with her own letter, describing the series of businesses on Freret that relied on her store for supplies while they got started. The store has no current issues with trash or loiterers, she writes, and keeps hours consistent with a grocery store.

“What we do is within business practices as other vendors on Freret Street. We will not allow our standard to go down. We can and will only improve,” she writes. “We’re an independent store like the rest of the vendors on Freret. We have products that you all see each day in other stores and advertised on TV like Lays Chip, Borden Milk, Bunny Bread, Coke, Pepsi, and products for the Latino neighbors that helped re-build the Freret Corridor. Selling alcohol beverages as any other convenience store or cocktail bar will help the area and not take away.”

The City Planning Commission meets at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday in the City Council Chambers at City Hall, 1300 Perdido Street. Las Acacias is the first item on the agenda, which actually includes a total of three Uptown requests:

  1. ZONING DOCKET 7/11 – Request by CAI T. LE AND LOAN KIM LE for a Conditional Use to permit the sale of alcoholic beverages for consumption off-premises at a retail store in a B-1A Neighborhood Business District on Square 607, Lot 1, in the Sixth Municipal District, bounded by Freret, Robert, South Robertson and Upperline Streets. The municipal addresses are 4929 FRERET STREET AND 2301-09 ROBERT STREET. (ZBM B-14/PD 3)
  2. ZONING DOCKET 8/11 – Request by CITY COUNCIL MOTION M-11-16 for a Conditional Use to permit a standard restaurant greater than 5,000 square feet in area with the sale of alcoholic beverages for consumption on premises in a B-1A Neighborhood Business District on Square 134, Lots A-2 and B, in the Fourth Municipal District, bounded by Magazine Street, Jackson Avenue, Constance and Philip Streets. The municipal address is 2200 MAGAZINE STREET. (ZBM C-15/PD 2)
  3. ZONING DOCKET 9/11 – Request by FFS INVESTMENTS, LLC for a Zoning Change from an RM-2A Multiple-Family Residential District and a B-1A Neighborhood Business District to an MU-A Mixed-Use District on Square 145, Lots 1 through 5 or 12 through 16, 6, 7, 11, and A in the Sixth Municipal District, bounded by Constance, Orange, Magazine and Race Streets. The municipal address is 1517-23 CONSTANCE STREET. (ZBM C-15/PD 2)

The Freret Business and Property Owner Association has its quarterly meeting scheduled for 5:15 p.m. Monday at the Next Level Institute, 4700 Freret St, but Las Acacias is not on the agenda.

4 thoughts on “Corner store’s request to sell alcohol draws divided opinion on Freret corridor

  1. Neighborhood associations ALWAYS oppose ALL alcohol sales. This is a great business, and they need this to prosper. It is a tough economy and NOLA needs to be more welcoming to businesses like this.

    We all buy alcohol. If they don’t sell it there, it’ll be purchased a few blocks away.

    When did New Orleans become Metairie? We gotta get past this bizarre idea that NEW ORLEANS places can’t sell alcohol anymore.

    • Seconded. Also, I would note that there are plenty of nice neighborhoods that thrive near markets that sell alcohol throughout uptown. The area around Magazine is quite upscale, although Magazine has several corner stores that sell alcohol. I don’t think that the presence of alcohol sales is going to be the deciding factor in whether a given residential redevelopment project moves forward.

    • This is why i hate neighborhood associations…for all the good they do, they always have a stick up their ass when it comes to business.

      What makes this even more ridiculous is that store closes at 6 PM! There aren’t going to be bums standing outside of it drinking out of paper sacks all hours of the night…

      …but no…heaven forbid i can walk down the street and buy a sixer from a local business…i’ll just have to go to Winn Dixie instead or drive up to Claiborne…

  2. Oppose. Yes, Magazine has several corner stores that serve alcohol. Just because it might be good for Mag does not mean it’s equivalently good elsewhere. BUT then I doubt anyone that owns nearby property that they owner occupy would ringingly endorse venues that sell. Familiar w Dat’s @ Mag and Felicity? You should be. Would you raise kids around the corner from there? I doubt it.

    And likening denying alcohol sales to Metairie is HILARIOUS. If anything it’s quite the opposite. Next would be walk up or drive thru daiquiri spots which are SO Metairie. No thanks.

    If you can’t find a nearby spot to get a sixer, you aren’t looking hard enough. New Orleans and Freret need to be more selective. This isn’t a Las Acacias issue. This is a quality of life issue.

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