‘We are determined’: Persistent Golfair community continues to rally against liquor store opening next to school

Residents in the Brentwood and Golfair neighborhoods are still fighting to prevent a liquor store from opening across the street from a school.

More than a dozen people lined up along Golfair Boulevard late Saturday morning and into the early afternoon for a rally as they protested the store from possibly opening.

This is a battle that’s been going on for years and those who live nearby want to finally see it come to an end.

the pressure some are trying to put on the city to keep the store from opening for business.

“We are determined to stop the opening of this liquor store,” said Lydia Bell, who is the president of the Metro Gardens Neighborhood Association Brentwood.

She and many others have not been shy of voicing their displeasure about a potential drive-thru liquor store that would sell packaged liquor from opening for business directly across the street from KIPP Jax Voice Academy.

“You can put lipstick on a pig, and it is still a pig,” Bell said. “This is a pig in our community.”

“It violates the dignity and respect these children are due,” said Ameena Shareef, who has lived in the community for a little more than one year.

“The kids would be seeing behavior presented before them that is destructive,” Carlos Perera said.

Saturday’s rally was not the first in the ongoing battle against the liquor store. The last one happened in May. Since that time, there has been additional construction and upgrades to the building.

There was even work going on outside the building, including landscaping while the rally was happening.

The entire dispute started back in 2020 when the building’s owner applied for an exemption to clear a path to sell liquor from inside the building.

Jacksonville’s Planning and Development Department originally recommended for the exemption to be rejected.

Back during a hearing in July 2020, the commission approved it.

Bell says her group and several others were never notified of that planning meeting.

Bell refuses to silence her voice in showing her disgust over the possibility of the liquor store opening.

“To allow a liquor store to be built next to a school is a Jacksonville city problem,” she said. Bell has lived in the neighborhood for 22 years.

“We are not going to allow it,” Bell said.

The neighborhood association hired an attorney who is looking into whether the building’s owner has the proper permits and if all the appropriate filings were in order to open the store.

City council members recently proposed an ordinance that would force someone who wants to open a liquor store in a restricted area to get approval from the city council instead of the planning commission.

Terrance Freeman, who was the city council president at the time, was instrumental in drafting the proposed ordinance.

Bell says the mayor’s office and other city leaders are trying to organize another community meeting within the next few weeks to figure out a resolution to this situation.

But people like Shareef, Perera and Bell will not back down.

“Even if it’s just five of us out here, we are going to keep protesting this,” Shareef said. “They are not going to be able to open up in peace.”

During the initial hearing in 2020, an attorney for the building’s owner said, “To thwart a citizen so as to deprive him of that ability and joy, the lawful use of his land, a miscarriage of justice has occurred.”

An official opening date for the liquor store has not been publicized.

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