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A line of cypress trees somewhat shields Decatur Hispanic Church of the Nazarene from a convenience store on Sandlin Road in Southwest Decatur.
Daily photos by John Godbey
A line of cypress trees somewhat shields Decatur Hispanic Church of the Nazarene from a convenience store on Sandlin Road in Southwest Decatur.

Beer barrier
Church seeks more than shield from alcohol sales

By Chris Paschenko · 340-2442

Thirty-seven skinny evergreens keep the alcohol flowing from a Decatur convenience store, but the trees’ days apparently are numbered.

On Monday, the Decatur City Council tabled a request to transfer an alcohol license for Sara Mini Mart at 2108 Sandlin Road S.W. after hearing complaints from the pastor of a nearby church.

No one from SAI Inc., which now owns the store, spoke at Monday’s public hearing, but the Rev. Leonel Alvarado, pastor of Decatur Hispanic Church of the Nazarene, told the council the church board has reversed its position on alcohol sales near its property.

Barriers must block view

According to municipal code, barriers must block the view of stores that sell alcohol within 500 feet of churches or elementary and secondary schools.

Decatur Revenue Director Ronne Harvell, who is a member of the city’s Alcohol Review Committee, said the store is 320 feet from the church and that the cypress trees, which are on church property, allow the store to meet the city’s requirement for an alcohol license.

Alvarado sent the city a letter dated Dec. 19, 2005, stating that Sam Abusaleem, former owner of the mini mart, was a “good neighbor” and that his planting of the trees would “provide additional attractiveness to our church property.”

Alvarado sent the city another letter last month, stating that the trees are blocking the view to the church building and that the church board is withdrawing its support of the alcohol license.

Alvarado told The Daily the trees are a safety hazard for drivers leaving the church. He said the church also opposes the alcohol license because he’s found evidence of vandalism — broken church windows and alcohol containers on church grounds.

Danger to children

“It’s dangerous for our children and teens,” Alvarado said. “We’ve found people drinking around our church. It looks like they’re buying alcohol and consuming it on church property.”

Alvarado said the church plans to cut down the trees, which could jeopardize the transfer of the store’s alcohol license.

Harvell said that police from the Traffic Division approved the placement of the trees two years ago and deemed the evergreens weren’t a traffic hazard.

Councilman David Bolding recommend tabling the license transfer until the council’s next business meeting April 2 to give the city time to investigate the traffic-hazard complaint.

“I would hope that before they take a chain saw to the trees, that they would plant them somewhere else on the property or give them away,” Harvell said.

An employee at the store said the owner had no comment.

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