Beer, wine store gets opposition

Children's Home director worries of increased homeless presence near facility

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The addition of an upscale beer and wine retailer might be seen by some as a sign of progress in downtown Augusta. Others view it differently.

Aficionados, a beer, wine and cigar shop, will open at 307 Eighth St. (far right). City officials say it is the required distance from the United Methodist Children's Home (far left), at 325 Eighth St. The director of the home has petitioned against the store.   Corey Perrine/Staff
Corey Perrine/Staff
Aficionados, a beer, wine and cigar shop, will open at 307 Eighth St. (far right). City officials say it is the required distance from the United Methodist Children's Home (far left), at 325 Eighth St. The director of the home has petitioned against the store.

"There are Bible studies that go on within our facilities," said Thurman Norville, a Methodist minister who is the director of United Methodist Children's Home on Eighth Street. "We also counsel families and individuals who are suffering because of alcohol."

The children's home, where children do not reside, stood out as the lone voice of opposition Monday to Louis Williamson's plans to open Aficionados, an upscale beer, wine and cigar store nearby at 307 Eighth St. Ten others signed a petition against the store, Norville said.

Williamson's application met Augusta's requirements that alcohol retailers be 100 yards away from a church, and the Richmond County Sheriff's Office knew of no significant problems in the area, according to Rob Sherman, the director of Augusta licensing and inspections.

Norville disagreed.

"Some of our folks that come in for counseling are ... accosted at night when panhandlers ask for money," he said. "Do we really need one more shop that's going to serve retail beer and wine where someone can go in and purchase it and walk right out the door?"

According to Williamson, Aficionados is geared toward consumers with a median income of $75,000, not the homeless.

"We're not going to cater toward the type of people the gentlemen spoke of earlier," he said.

An Augusta Commission committee agreed to license Williamson, but the full commission will vote on the matter Tuesday after Sherman provides more information about crime in the area, Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles said.

A member of a nearby church was adamant the new store would cause no harm.

"I wholeheartedly support it and think it's a good addition to the vitality of downtown," David Moretz said.

Aficionados is unlikely to be the last new alcohol store moving downtown; last week, Augusta lowered the minimum required distance between such stores from 11/2 miles to 500 yards. Commissioner Corey Johnson said he was concerned the move might "saturate certain areas," but Bowles said applications could be handled individually or certain areas could be carved out of the ordinance.

"I believe we can control the package shops like we can the bars if there's an excess," Bowles said.

Bill Price, the owner of Bill's Place, a package shop on Fifth Street, was skeptical, saying the move was simply another way for the commission to generate revenue.

"They just want money," Price said.

The change opened the door for Aficionados, which will pay $1,210 for its license to sell alcohol.

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omnomnom 01/27/11 - 05:11 am
there's already a place that

there's already a place that sells beer on 8th street (8th street tobacco) i mean c'mon now, what harm would there be in another?

InChristLove 01/27/11 - 10:46 am
This comment is in response

This comment is in response to something Stacyatkins wrote yesterday. Please tell me when did it become un-American to personally disagree with something, and when did we lose our right to voice our opinions and take a stand for what we feel is right? Your comment “People who want to “BAN” something just because they, personally, disagree with it should reconsider calling themselves an American and consider moving to another country that agrees with their philosophy.” You challenge someone to learn the meaning of freedom…..maybe you should take your own advice.

If Mr. Norville had been a member of a civic club or social group, and not labeled as a minister and had voiced his objection to this establishment because he felt it was not in the best interest of the businesses in the surrounding area would the same bashing take place. Individuals who stand on biblical principals whether they attend church, call themselves Christians, or object because of their religious beliefs are still citizens of this town and have the same right to voice their disagreement as someone who does not follow the same principals or who agrees with the opening of this establishment. Why is it okay to take away the right to object just because he is a minister?

torville 01/27/11 - 01:56 pm
I am one person who protested

I am one person who protested the license. I work for the Children's Home. I am not against anyone buying or using alcohol. Free country and everyone has the right to do as they desire. Not against Afici onados , nor the people who have an idea to build a business in downtown Augusta. Let's get the facts straight! The Children's Home office provides preservation services to families with children. We offer counseling, parenting classes and financial assistance to families with children. We help people who struggle to pay their bills. We help the homeless also. The business owners and property owners submitted the petition, not the Children's Home. Several other business owners were at the commission meeting when the license for Aficionados was raised. They were not allowed to speak. So, I guess we take the heat. I am not the spokesperson for the church community, Methodism or the Christian majority, as the article would lead you to believe. We have experienced broken windows, people using the bathroom in our door way, our parking lot being trashed with beer bottles and cans, after downtown events. If the business being opened is up scale, great! If in 6 months, shorts are being sold in brown bags and consumed on the street, then perhaps the commission will rethink their decision. I personally hope this store would open a lunch counter or perhaps just a sandwich bar, we could use a great, upscale place to grab lunch. We do have a shop that sells tobacco and beer on the opposite corner from the propsed site of Aficionados. Don't know who owns this site, but there seems to be no issues. I personally don't know who is selling this property and if obtaining the license is contingent on the property sale closing. I do know that we have a lot of young people, school age, attending the dance studio and art school across the street from the proposed site. I am concerned about their safety as many are standing after dark waiting on parents to pick them up from classes. Do we really need another retail beer and wine store so close to each other? I do understand we are in an entertainment district, so what will be next. Again, I hope the business will be upscale and attract the demogrpahic popoulation their marketing study has targeted. I will be the first to applaud the and congratulate the owners on a successful business venture. With this being said, I hope the business does not become just a walk out the door package store that sells short in a brown bag, that is consumed by those individuals that are already on edge...that throw their empties in the parking lot and aggressively panhandle and harass those trying to enjoy our downtown entertainment and upscale housing. So, please accept my apology to those we have offended and those who are tying to bring a new business to downtown.

bucklemyshoe 01/28/11 - 12:34 pm
The owner of 8th Street

The owner of 8th Street Tobacco is the same guy opening Aficionados. I believe he plans on turning the other store into a convenience store and only selling fine cigars, craft beer (probably 8-12 bucks per 6 pack) and high-quality wine at Aficionados. Panhandlers will likely remain in the area regardless, but I'm sure none of them will ever shop at Aficionados. They'll go to a gas station to get their Schlitz malt liquor.

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