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Hot Spot, 1102 N. Hershey Road, is at the intersection of Hershey Road and Empire Street, Bloomington. The Bloomington Liquor Commission has denied a liquor license to its new owners because of concerns about the neighborhood.

BLOOMINGTON — An east-side convenience store will lose its ability to sell packaged liquor under its new management.

The incoming owners of the Hot Spot Grocery and Liquor at 1102 N. Hershey Road have been denied a liquor license by the Bloomington Liquor Commission because of concerns about the neighborhood. The store is on the northwest corner of the intersection of Hershey and Empire Street and within a block of Todd and Gettysburg drives.

“It is an area that is a hot spot for us — pun intended — and it’s one we want to keep a very close eye on,” said Mayor Tari Renner, who heads the commission. “It’s one of those areas and neighborhoods that could conceivably flare up and then flare back. It’s a concerning area.”

The store has had a liquor license to allow the sale of packaged alcohol for consumption off the premises, but Pravinkunur Patel and Shivabhui Patel were not granted a new license Tuesday following a lengthy discussion by the three-member panel.

“I’m concerned with the impact on the immediate neighborhoods around the area,” said Renner, who was joined by Commissioner Jack Bataoel in raising concerns about the license. 

Assistant Police Chief Greg Scott told the panel that since the business removed gasoline pumps several years ago, there has been less traffic at the store and there have not been any known problems of alcohol sales to minors.

The Patel brothers, who attended the hearing, told the commission the same employees will be held over to help operate the store.

“Our sales for alcohol are about 10 to 15 percent of our sales,” said Shivabhui Patel. “We keep our alcohol behind the counter and off of the floor.”

Commissioner Lindsey Powell was the only member in favor of granting the license.

“I think it’s unfortunate the neighborhood is going downhill and it’s hard for me to take a license away from a store that has not had any issues,” she said. “If you take away liquor sales from this spot, they will go across the street to Thornton’s.

"It feels wrong to punish them for the apartments behind them. I have never once had an issue there and believe it is well run.”

The city clerk’s office said it has not yet received official notification of the change in ownership, indicating the liquor license is still valid under the current ownership.

A clerk at the store on Wednesday indicated the store was still selling liquor.

The Patels could not be reached for comment Wednesday and it is unknown when the transfer of ownership will be finalized.

Bataoel said his concerns included the proximity of the YWCA, which is across the street, and the fact that a number of youths walk in the area.

“I have personally been involved in interactions going in and out of the property, and I have had challenges by patrons of it,” Bataoel said. “My concern would be for the kids walking back and forth to school.”

Ward 5 Alderwoman Joni Painter attended the hearing and said she has received complaints from residents who live in the apartments behind the store about the foot traffic between the apartments and the store.

“I don’t think we need to glut the area with liquor stores,” she said. “Liquor and crime are a bad mix. It is a high-crime area.

"An apartment (building) on Gettysburg recently burned down," she said, adding Orchard Road, the scene of a shooting in which two people were killed and two were injured early Sunday, is "four minutes away."  

"Four years ago, when the convenience (store) asked to have a liquor license, there were concerns, but as time has passed, the area has declined,” she said.

With Renner and Bataoel clearly against granting the license, Powell declined to even make a motion for a vote. The license was effectively denied as a result.

Contact Kevin Barlow at (309) 820-3238. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_barlow

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Agriculture Reporter

Agriculture reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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