Residents protest liquor store proposal

By Don Logana - bio | email

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Controversy continues to swirl over a proposed package liquor store in downtown Savannah.

A zoning request goes before the zoning board Tuesday afternoon for the location at the corner of Abercorn and Waldburg streets, formerly known as Little Kings Restaurant and Beauty Salon.

Neighbors have been vocally against the plan, and with new information about the family proposing the business, they have even more serious concerns about the plan.

Monday afternoon, residents held signs outside the property, as motorist drove by.

"A liquor store is absolutely the move in the wrong dirtection," Dion Love told WTOC.

Love is just one of a group of vocal, and energized, residents who have been doing their homework, trying to stop local business man Andy Patel, from turning the location into what they don't want.

"Let's hope. No package liquor store," Love said.

Two weeks ago, residents met with the attorney for Andy Patel, Harold Yellin, and Patel's son, Tony. The meeting resulted in a list of restrictions on the business if the zoning passes allowing teh liquor store. The family also agreed to submit a revised business plan.

Neighbors say they have not seen a revised plan. All along, they have questioned the managerial and liquor license experience of Patel.

At meeting, Yellin told residents Patel had previously only had beer and wine licenses, and most were under the name of the store manager. Not his.

Last week, neighbors say they were notified by email, which they showed WTOC, by Alderman Van Johnson, who let them know Malone's on the River, a downtown Savannah night-spot, was in trouble for serving underage drinkers.

What neighbors were not told, is Andy Patel is also an owner in the Malone's business. The Savannah City Council will now have a hearing on the future of the liquor license at Malone's.

Neighbors also discovered, the manager for Malone's, Brijesh Patel, Pate's brother, was  arrested on November 1 on a felony charge of violating Georgia's cigarette tax law.

"There seems to be a pattern emerging here where the Patel family seems to do business in a way that is certainly not transparent," Love said. "That raises concerns that any promises they make to us as a community will not be honored."

Tose issues are adding to concerns and residents are gaining support.

"They don't need a liquor store around here. I drink beer. They don't need a liquor store around here," Vernita Wilson told WTOC. "Do something positive. That's not positive."

These neighbors hope a recommendation by the Metropolitan Planning Commission to deny the request by the Patel's will hold up.

"It does seem strange to me they would not follow the recommendation of their own staff in this manner," Love said.

Last week, a vacancy on the zoning board was filled by former board member, Sidney Johnson. However, neighbors were skeptical about the nomination, as it came from alderwoman Mary Osborne, who has been very vocal in her support of the Patel family and the liquor store request.

"I Was concerned the person who was nominated may be someone who does business with Mr. Patel, for example," Love said. "I absolutely hope that it will be turned down."

The zoning board meets Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. to vote on the liquor store proposal and special use request.

Efforts to reach the family's attorney, Harold Yellin, were not returned.

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