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Queen Anne Mini Mart Attracts Controversy

Carolyn Beeler
03/12/2010

A convenience store opening in Seattle's Queen Anne neighborhood is attracting controversy. Some neighbors say it looks cheap and will attract drunks. Others defend it, saying Queen Anne is being too snobby.

TRANSCRIPT

The Five Corners Mini Mart sits on a mostly residential street a few blocks away from Queen Anne Avenue. Michael Tasch lives around the corner, and he says the store is not a good fit for the neighborhood.

Tasch: "You know my first reaction when I saw it, I drove around the corner and saw the signage that had gone up. One said discount cigarettes, one said beer and wine, and one said groceries. The appearance of it was awful, and then the implication that they would be selling beer and wine and cigarettes was just kind of gross."

Tasch and some of his neighbors don't want the area to attract what he calls the chronically inebriated. They started a petition to block the mini–mart from getting a liquor license.

Ellen Monrad caught wind of the controversy. She chairs the Queen Anne community council, and led a recent neighborhood meeting about the store. She says people were vocal, mostly complaining.

Monrad: "The concerns were there wasn't enough parking in the neighborhood, the hours would be too late, the signage was ugly, it will bring too many people driving down the street, there'd be too many drunks, there'd be too many people sitting on the sidewalk, it wasn't the type of business they thought should be in that neighborhood."

People thought the store would be great if it sold specialty Asian foods or ice cream, but not cheap cigarettes and beer.

The store's owner apparently got the message. The signs out front that used to advertise discount cigarettes and beer — now they say organic coffee and organic ice cream.

The owner declined to talk to us for this story, but he agreed with the neighbors not to sell fortified wine. Still, lots of people are worried.

They point to a national study that they say shows more alcohol vendors in a neighborhood lead to more assaults. But Ellen Monrad thinks that's not really the issue.

Monrad: "There is a grocery store two blocks away that sells beer and wine, there is a store across the street, a coffee shop that sells beer and wine, there is a wine shop on the corner — 7/11, Safeway and Met Market all sell beer and wine and are open all night. So I just believe they have attached themselves to this and one more minor Mom–and–Pop grocery store isn't going cause the violent assaults on Queen Anne to dramatically raise."

So even though the mini–mart is within its rights to open in this Queen Anne neighborhood, Michael Tasch is also within his rights to protest the current business plan. He sees it as being a good neighbor.

Tasch: "I think people have spoken out because they want to defend the neighborhood, because they think it's a good thing, and just like you maintain your house, you maintain your neighborhood and you try to keep it alive and healthy."

The neighborhood's petition would keep the mini–mart from selling any type of alcohol. Its organizers plan to send it to the City Attorney and Washington State Liquor Board.

For KUOW News, I'm Carolyn Beeler.

© Copyright 2010, KUOW

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