By Tia Lynn Ivey
EZ Bottle Shop, a liquor store located on Washington Street in Madison, is under scrutiny after complaints of customers loitering, public urination, and public alcohol consumption.
Tony Clark, a Madison resident who lives near the store, appeared before the Madison Mayor and City Council last Monday to ask for their intervention on the matter.
“I’ve been told by the police that they have it under control Well, let me say, you certainly do not,” said Clark. “The police don’t seem to be handling this, so I thought I’d come here and ask you all if there’s anything you can do about it.”
Clark complained that patrons of the EZ Bottle Shop linger long afterward loudly talking in the parking lot near his house. He said he witnessed people urinating on the property, drinking alcohol outside the store in public, wandering off into adjacent properties, and even overheard a woman soliciting a man for sex outside the store.
City Manager David Nunn was aware of the issue but believes the situation is slowing improving.
“This has always been an issue. I have been here my whole life and with the city almost 30 years. We are trying to effect change there,” said Nunn. “It’s been a moving target. It’s gotten better, but then after a while, it gets worse again. It may not be progressing at the speed everyone would like, but it is getting better.”
Council members Joe DiLetto and Chris Hodges suggested penalizing the owner of EZ Bottle Shop with citations that could lead to the loss of the business’s liquor license if they do not enforce the City’s rules on loitering and alcohol consumption on the property.
“I don’t know why we were so reluctant to cite the owner of the facility,” said DiLetto. “If he loses the license, then so be it.”
Nunn reminded the council that the matter is more complicated than automatically issuing a citation to the owner. “Everyone has to have their due process,” said Nunn.
“The onus should be on the property owners to get this under control,” said Hodges. “If his license is tied to this, the person who has the biggest stake in enforcing this is the business owner.”
Council members Rick Blanton and Eric Joyce favored increasing police presence in the area to detect loiterers quicker.
“I would like to see a directive to ask our police chief to make every effort in this,” said Blanton.
“I feel for you,” said Joyce to Clark. “Can we see if we can get the chief to increase patrolling the area?” suggested Joyce.
Madison Mayor Fred Perriman supported both approaches.
“Maybe what we need to do is get with the chief and have a talk with the owners and let them know what will happen if this continues,” said Perriman.
The council noted that with the West Washington Gateway makeover on the horizon, they are hoping this problem would be solved. City planners are hoping to move the liquor store, and other surrounding businesses to a better, but nearby, locale. According to David Nunn, if EZ Bottle Shop agrees to move, the current building would be decimated and the area would become green space.
“We are hoping to make progress in that area,” said Perriman.