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Beline Obeid

Council against liquor at Mack-Moross BP

Brad Lindberg Staff Writer
February 04, 2016
GROSSE POINTE FARMS — Among frustrations uniting members of the city council against allowing liquor sales at the Mack-Moross BP gasoline station is their lack of authority to prevent it.

The station’s buyers, closing the purchase by month’s end, only need approval from the Michigan Liquor Control Commission, not the city, to transfer a liquor license and start operations.

“Since this request is a transfer, approval of the local unit of government is not required,” the commission wrote the Grosse Pointe Farms city clerk Jan. 25.

The council intends to counter with a critical resolution, which is more bark than bite, and, in truth-to-power spirit, manipulate municipal zoning codes to limit hours during which alcoholic beverages are sold.

A special meeting is scheduled 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 17, at city hall, 90 Kerby, to pass the resolution and lobby the new owners to accept stipulations.

“If we could agree to conditions, it might make a bitter pill go down easier,” said Councilman Pete Waldmeir. “If, despite these concerns the license is granted, the owners (will) have consented to certain conditions.”

A will and a way

Municipal codes let the city regulate hours of liquor sales, type of liquor, display, signage and more.

“I would be open to that,” said Scott Barbat, of Bloomfield Hills, one of three brothers buying the station.

“The state is not going to ignore us, but will probably make you go through a few more hoops before they approve it,” Councilman Louis Theros told Barbat at this month’s regular meeting, Monday, Feb. 1. “When you tie cars with booze !. I don’t know if I want to be a party to this.”

The council may try to enforce its wishes by reconsidering the station’s exemption to a zoning ordinance forbidding 24-hour operations.

The exemption was granted years ago, but would no longer qualify if liquor sales are deemed to change the character of the business.

“It strikes me the character of the business is changing and, therefore, the exception would not necessarily continue,” said William Burgess, city attorney. “This zoning classification has restriction on hours of operation at 10 p.m., unless the council grants an extension of those hours of operation.”

The station generates $1 million per month in sales of 240,000 to 250,000 gallons of gasoline, convenience store products and auto repairs, according to owner Rick Gram of Grosse Pointe Shores.

“I’ve had the opportunity to sell (the business) to a number of people,” Gram said. “These guys portray the image we want. Everything they do is top end.”

“You don’t make money on gas,” Barbat said. “You make it inside the store. Any revenue stream you can create inside the store helps you be successful.”

Police presence

The station, across Mack from Detroit and at an intersection hosting four bus stops, is a focus of police.

“It is, by far, our No. 1 establishment for requests for police responses,” said Dan Jensen, public safety director.

“Within the last three years, 176 documented requests for police action. Dozens of arrests for loitering, trespassing, suspicious persons, intoxicated subjects, multiple drug arrests, panhandlers, felony and misdemeanor arrests and larcenies including theft.”

“To throw liquor on top of the situation, I can’t support it,” said Councilman Martin West.

“It already draws a lot of the element we wish we didn’t have,” Jensen said. “Any 24-hour operation close to Detroit is a potential target, so we patrol it heavily.”

Sale anyway

The sale’s not contingent on a liquor license.

“The sale will go through with or without it (by) the end of this month,” Barbat said.

With a license, the lobby will contain an 8-by-8-foot display of craft beers, gallon containers of wine and large bottles of spirits.

Expensive brands and large containers discourage “riffraff” seeking something for immediate consumption, Barbat said, citing experience at his 18 other gas stations that stock alcohol, mainly in Oakland County.

“Our operation is quite different from the typical liquor store,” he said.

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