‘We’re not playing:’ Baton Rouge liquor store facing pressure to close amid recent crime outside business
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - A Baton Rouge liquor store was at the center of an intense community meeting amid recent reports of crime happening outside the business.
Councilwoman Chauna Banks hosted the meeting Tuesday, Aug. 23, in response to concerns surrounding Vince’s Liquor Store. Several residents and other business owners have called for the business to be permanently shut down.
“We’re not playing. I’m not playing,” Banks said.
The store sits just off Scotland Ave. and Blues Highway. Banks says the business has become a hotspot for violence, drug activity, and prostitution.
Two separate shootings happened just outside the business over the last few months. On March 19, one of those shooting claimed the life of a 17-year-old. A second victim was killed on July 28.
Banks gave a stern warning to the store’s owners, either step up and help fix the problem or close up shop.
“I don’t care. Lawyer up or lawyer down. They will be closed down if something doesn’t change. I just want to make sure that’s clear,” Banks said. “Where crime has gone down in every other part of our district, it has gone up just in that block.”
The store’s owners, Alheleli Mohammed and Abdullah Mohammed, told community leaders they are prepared to take accountability, but their attorney believes shutting down would send the wrong message.
“I think it’s astonishing that there seems to be a call to shut down this business in this area, in an area by all accounts could use the business and could use the revenue,” Sacha Tessier, the owner’s attorney said.
Community members at the meeting shared the same thoughts.
“I think it would send the wrong message to just totally close it down,” one woman said. “We’re trying to build Baton Rouge and this community up.”
“All it’s going to do is that it’ll provide an empty building that’s dark and is going to invite more of the problem and it’s going to be less regulated because you’re not going to have somebody there calling the police and telling them to come out and remove the people from the property,” Tessier said.
Banks wants the store to increase their security measure and to intervene whenever they see suspicious activity happening.
The owners and other people at the meeting asked if BRPD could step in and possibly patrol the area more to cut down on the crime. In the end, Banks says it will take a joint effort.
”This is something collectively that we’re working towards, it won’t happen overnight, but this does give businesses a chance to do better,” Banks said.
Tessier says they plan to meet with Banks and BRPD Chief Murphy Paul to come up with a plan and other solutions to help address the problem.
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