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Letter: Liquor license story paints inaccurate picture

September 25, 2015
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Editor:

I was deeply disappointed — and frankly dismayed — by the story “Liquor license quest overcomes challenges” (Business Journal, Sept. 11, 2015, page 1). Not only did the piece contain serious factual inaccuracies, the reporter and James Storey, who is quoted throughout, painted a false picture of the business climate in the city of Kentwood, where I serve as mayor.

Kentwood is open for business — and for businesses. In fact, the case of the Al-Bos Euro Cafe is one in which the city of Kentwood actually changed its ordinances and provided a free liquor license — up to a $50,000 value — to help an immigrant businessman succeed.

I’d like to set the record straight and tell Business Journal readers what really happened.

In February 2012, Al-Bos LLC filed an application with the city of Kentwood to obtain one of the additional “quota” liquor licenses awarded to the city by virtue of the 2010 U.S. Census. These quota licenses are given to businesses free of charge. The usual cost for a liquor license on the open market is between $35,000 and $50,000.

The restaurant’s application was not approved. Al-Bos did not have the minimum required seating for at least 150 patrons, a standard for obtaining a liquor license that had been in place in the city of Kentwood since 1969. The Kentwood City Commission later amended the minimum seating requirement to 100, specifically accommodating smaller businesses such as Al-Bos Euro Café.

In May of 2014, Al-Bos LLC submitted a new application for a quota license under the amended standard. The Kentwood City Commission gave its approval within one short month, conditioned on Al-Bos signing the development agreement and installing sprinklers, a state building code requirement for reasons of public safety.

The owner did not sign the agreement until Aug. 6, 2015, delaying the receipt of their free liquor license for over a year.

Why the delay? Jim Storey, a paid consultant for the restaurant, fought its signing.

It was Mr. Storey who brought to the city’s attention a St. Clair Shores development agreement as a proposed model for the city/Al-Bos agreement. Yet once the agreement he had suggested was approved by the City Commission, Mr. Storey turned around to fight it, further delaying the project.

It was Jim Storey who is quoted by the Business Journal complaining — inaccurately — that the city had increased the seating requirement for restaurants that hold liquor licenses. The city did no such thing.

Al-Bos was the clear winner in this agreement.

The business received a free liquor license from the city of Kentwood while the development agreement would support Kentwood jobs. The city supported a community business by changing its ordinances, so that those driven from their homes by war would know the support of their new country and their new community.

That’s a true American success story. I’m disappointed the Business Journal didn’t tell it.

Stephen Kepley
Mayor
Kentwood

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