Liquor store owner plans to sue Port Wentworth if alcohol license is denied

PORT WENTWORTH, GA (WTOC) - A small business owner may be going to war with the City of Port Wentworth if city council denies his request for a liquor license.

The application is for a liquor store that hasn't been built yet, and won't be if the application is denied.

The business owner, Jiten Patel, says he's followed all the steps and done all that's required to build and open his second liquor store location, so he's not sure why Port Wentworth City Council seems to be pushing back.

"This application has absolutely no basis to be denied because it complies with every single regulation or law that's on the books," said Savannah Attorney Will Claiborne. Claiborne is representing Patel on the matter.

To be clear, the liquor license application technically hasn't been denied by Port Wentworth City Council just yet. It was met with concerns from several council members, who questioned the number of liquor stores in the area and proximity to a school.

Patel says he's done his research and he's confident in the steps he's taken. He sold his other store on Wilmington Island several months ago to be able to have this location.

"Plus, we've already spent $50,000 on drawings for the existing plans because the city required us to give them a site plan before they took our application, so we had to spend money on the drawings for the building and the site plan," Patel said. "We have our hard earned money which already we've spent, and we don't know if we'll be able to do this or not, so it's just frustrating to know, you know, what's going to happen on the 22nd. Will we be allowed to do one, and if we're allowed to do one, will we be able to operate it?'

Patel says he plans on putting $2 million into the whole building which will include space for another business, making the liquor store the anchor shop. He can't move forward, though, without the liquor license from the city.

"If this application gets denied on Thursday, I have absolutely no doubt that we will immediately proceed forward with a lawsuit and that we will win that lawsuit, because there is absolutely no basis to deny my client his constitutional right under the Fifth Amendment to develop his property as he sees fit," Claiborne said.

There was also a handful of residents voicing opposition, including owners of two nearby liquor stores. We reached out to the interim city attorney's office, but he was in court. The mayor pro-tem says with Patel seeking legal representation, he can't comment.

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