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Milton stands firm on beer-sale curfew

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
August 17, 2011
— A Milton City Council committee upheld a fledgling ordinance amendment that cuts off retail beer sales at 9 p.m., despite a plea Tuesday by a local gas station owner who says the ordinance unfairly targets him.

Milton Travel Center owner Amin Shaikh asked the city's personnel and finance committee Tuesday to allow him to sell beer until 11 p.m., even though an ordinance amendment approved by the city council in June bars him from doing so.


Shaikh, who was flanked Tuesday by his attorney, Guy Fish, said the city could change the ordinance but require future retailers to comply with the 9 p.m. cutoff.


The committee, led Tuesday by Milton Mayor Tom Chesmore, voted to take no action and to make no recommendation on the request, effectively killing it. The motion was forwarded to Chesmore by committee chair David Adams, who was absent Tuesday.


The council set the 9 p.m. cutoff June 21, four months after it granted Shaikh a Class A beer license. The new ordinance allows beer sales in Milton from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.


Prior to that, the ordinance had allowed retailers to sell beer under state statute, which allow the sale from 8 a.m. to midnight.


Shaikh said Tuesday he'd looked forward to the competitive edge of being the only convenience store in Milton to sell beer late at night. He'd spent $30,000 installing a new walk-in cooler at his gas station at Highway 26 and Arthur Drive.


He said he wouldn't have done the work had he known the city planned the 9 p.m. cutoff. Shaikh told the committee he believes the city pulled the rug from under him by changing the rules after granting him the license.


"It should have been passed before I got the license," he said.


Shaikh and Fish told the Gazette Tuesday they're weighing legal options, but they would not comment on whether they plan legal action.


Shaikh believes the ordinance change unfairly targets him because he's the only licensed retail beer seller in Milton who stays open late.


While addressing the council in July and again Tuesday, Shaikh pointed out that the city's other two licensed alcohol retailers, Beverage Mart and Piggly Wiggly, close by their own choice at 9 p.m. And, he added, they're licensed to sell hard liquor too. Shaikh just sells beer.


In a July interview, Shaikh told the Gazette he wondered if the city was playing favorites with other businesses.


On Tuesday, Chesmore chastised Shaikh for complaining to the media, accusing Shaikh of calling city officials "corrupt."


He added that if Shaikh wanted the attention of the council and the mayor, he had it, "but not in a pleasant way."


City Administrator Jerry Schuetz on Tuesday told Shaikh the city capped retail beer sales at 9 p.m. because that matches the policy of most other area communities. He said it's intended to prevent the city from becoming an island of late-night beer sales.


Schuetz and other city officials have defended the change, saying it improves public safety by providing a consistent cutoff time for beer sales for all three local retailers.



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