Mounds View can expect a fourth liquor store


The former Snap Market building on County Road I will soon house Mounds View’s fourth liquor store. (Jesse Poole photos/Bulletin)

Jesse Poole/Bulletin The property owner of the storefront at 2408 County Road I had to pay off $28,686 in delinquent property taxes before the Mounds View City Council could grant a liquor license. With the taxes paid, the old “grand opening” signs hanging in the windows might be more fitting once the new tenant, Keshav Enterprises, opens a liquor store in the former Snap Market building.

Council wrestles with ‘want’ vs. ‘should’

 

Among other items left behind by County Road I’s vacant Snap Market, misleading “grand opening” signs remain hanging in the building’s windows. 

Though the property has been unoccupied since last summer, when Snap Market was evicted by its landlord, many things were left behind to gather dust.

Those signs, however, might be re-purposed soon, as the landlord’s prospective tenant was granted a liquor license May 25, which will effectively transform the building — situated at 2408 County Road I — into Mounds View’s fourth off-sale liquor store. 

According to Mounds View City Council members, after a few loose ends are tied up, those “grand opening” signs will be more fitting — and welcomed by those who are dismayed by the building’s current shabby appearance.

 

Neighbors not supportive

A reluctant approval arrived in a 4-1 vote at the council’s May 25 meeting, but it was not the council’s first encounter with the somewhat contentious issue.

The property owner, Zulfiquar Punjani, had appeared before the council requesting the liquor license in early April as well, and was met by several residents who opposed having a fourth liquor store in the suburb of 12,525 residents.

Many who live across, behind, kitty-corner to or just in the vicinity of the retail building spoke out against the application, listing multiple reasons for the council to deny the license. 

Some residents were worried that a liquor store could breed loitering and crime, while others were worried about trash and noise. 

 

First came denial

During that first council meeting, Punjani was denied the license, not based on the residents’ negative feedback, but due to ordinance restrictions that Punjani needed to sort out before continuing the application process.

Before council members would even consider supporting the building becoming a liquor store, they told Punjani that he would have to “follow the rules,” which in this case meant paying $28,686 in back taxes on the property, a feat Punjani first argued was impossible.

He later changed his mind during the same meeting and assured council members that he could pay the back taxes in a few months.

 

Try, try again

According to Punjani, the delinquent property taxes stemmed from issues he had with his former tenant, Snap Market. Punjani claimed the Snap Market proprietor had stopped making rent payments, which meant he was losing money on the building during a period of time, plus the months-long process of evicting the convenience store, he said. 

“I lost very badly,” he had told council members, explaining that he didn’t receive rent payments from his tenant for about a year and a half, he said.

According to both Punjani and Mounds View assistant city administrator Desaree Crane, Punjani paid the back taxes by May 20 and the property was thus made eligible for reconsideration for a liquor license.

Punjani’s perspective tenant is Keshav Enterprises, Inc., which can open and operate its liquor store once city staff have proof of liquor liability insurance and the building has a fire inspection. 

 

Too many stores?

Several residents attended the May 25 council meeting to once again speak in opposition of a liquor store so close to their homes. 

Relatively small compared to its neighboring Ramsey County suburbs, Mound View already has three off-sale liquor stores, each located just off County Highway 10 and less than a mile apart from each other. 

Ankur Chopra of Keshav Enterprises, which also owns City Liquors in Brooklyn Park, was told by residents and council members that its not clear the location is ideal for a liquor store, and many suggested it was too close to its competition.

But according to Mayor Joe Flaherty and multiple council members, having an operating business in that storefront is better than having an empty building.  

“It’s a legitimate business; that’s what we’re asking for,” Chopra told homeowners at the meeting, after receiving questions about his motives and how he plans to run his business. 

“What we’d like to do and what we should do, in this particular case, are probably two different things,” Flaherty said in the end, indicating that city leaders’ had hoped a different kind of business would move into that location. “But a liquor store in and of itself does that breed crime.”

After telling residents that they had no basis to deny the license, the city council members voted and approved the license. 

 

Jesse Poole can be reached at jpoole@lillienews.com or at 651-748-7815. Follow him on Twitter @JPooleNews.

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