COFFEEVILLE – Yalobusha supervisors rejected a request for a beer permit from Musid “Mo” Ali at the Double L store during a recessed meeting Tuesday at the Coffeeville Courthouse.
The rejection came after Ali made a passionate plea to supervisors for the permit. The business is located on Hwy. 330 at the Yalobusha-Calhoun county line.
Ali first told supervisors he came to the county from Michigan to support his wife and seven children, ranging from five to 18 years-old. He said he lived in the business and worked long hours each day.
“I love this country. I love all of you. I know there may be one or two guys that don’t like me for some reason. I love them,” Ali told county officials.
“A piece of candy used to be $1.50, I sell it for 89 cents. A case of beer used to be 24.99, I sell it for $19.99. I treat my customers fair,” Ali explained.
“If I go home, failure, I would rather die,” he added.
Ali explained that he had proudly served this country, and had letters from both former President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama. He told supervisors that he could not comment on his past work.
“It was secret mission, I can’t even discuss it,” Ali said.
Prior to the discussion, the board denied a request from Ali to enter executive session to discuss the matter behind closed doors.
Board President Tommy Vaughn was first to respond to Ali’s request.
“Mr. Ali, you have submitted this information about what you have done in the past and about what your aspirations of doing in the future. But this board is bound by what you are doing in the present,” Vaughn said.
“I am sure you love this country, we all do. But we are bound by laws. And those laws dictate a civilized society. You said you have lowered the price of beer. Well, you didn’t have the right to sell beer because you didn’t have a permit… Even gaming machines brought in to make a profit. Now, that’s not the way we operate. That’s not the way we are going to operate,” Vaughn continued.
Vaughn said he had inspected the store and the only thing in the business was beer.
“I want you to know we are not against beer in this county. We are not against selling beer in this county. But we are against people breaking the law,” Vaughn said.
District 3 Supervisor Lee McMinn then asked for a recap of the situation at the store from Sheriff Lance Humphreys.
Humphreys provided a timeline, starting with a beer permit application submitted by Ali to the county.
When a deputy checked the business, Ali said he was managing it for store owner Lynn Parsons, and operating under Parsons’ permit until the new permit is issued.
By late December, Humphreys said his department started receiving complaints about loud music.
A deputy then responded and did not hear the music for two consecutive nights.
Humphreys then said he told the complainant to sign an affidavit for disturbing the peace, which was done.
Humphreys said deputies returned to the store before the arrest warrant for the complaint was issued after a customer called 911 and complained that Ali was waving a gun in the store.. Ali was charged with possession of a concealed weapon and having an illegal gambling machines on January 9.
“He was also told then he could not sell any beer,” Humphreys explained.
The second arrest was made on January 11 for the warrant stemming from the complaint about the loud music. Ali was also charged with possession of marijuana when deputies went to the store to make the arrest.
Humphreys also said that Ali denied selling the beer patrons were drinking at the time of the arrest.
Ali admitted to having a gun, but said he had it for his personal protection.
“I wasn’t waving a gun,” Ali added. He also added that the newspaper article in the Herald about the arrests made him appear guilty.
Ali also admitted in Tuesday’s hearing that he had provided beer for his customers after the warning from deputies, but said he had provided it at no charge.
“That’s some type of fallacy that somebody has picked up, between drinks, saying here’s how you can beat the county, by giving it away. You, in effect, sold it in exchange for business in the future,” Board Attorney John Crow explained.
Crow then outlined the provisions of the beer permit to which Ali had consented by submitting the application to the county.
Crow noted the application was signed on October 1, 2012. The application was not discussed at a board meeting until Tuesday’s meeting, but store owner Lynn Parsons said Ali had operated under his permit after a delay obtaining a state permit. Ali said he now has obtained a state permit to sell beer.
Among provisions in the beer permit Crow reviewed including not having loud music and not allowing gambling to be in compliance with the beer permit, legal operating hours, and the requirements for restaurant operation – all outlined in the county’s beer ordinance that Ali received when he got paperwork when he picked up an application for the permit.
“If I came in there and you were selling food to other people and I said I just want a beer, would you sell me a beer?” Crow asked.
“If I have a license, yes,” Ali answered.
“You can’t sell beer without food. That’s the point of it (beer ordinance). You have to eat with the beer,” Crow explained.
“Were you doing that in the past, selling cold beer in the past without food?” Crow asked.
“Yes, I didn’t know,” Ali replied.
“We have been doing that for five years,” Parsons also answered.
Chancery Clerk Amy McMinn then swore Parsons in before providing additional testimony during the hearing.
Parsons testified that he had operated the store since it opened until Ali took over late last year.
“You had a bar out there?” Crow asked.
“No,” Parsons answered.
“You are selling cold beer without food?” Crow asked.
“Maybe a sandwich, but not where they are sitting there getting drunk. I was there for five years, Lance (Humphreys) how many times did you come out to that store?” Parsons asked.
The sheriff said there have been few problems with the business.
“That doesn’t make any difference,” Crow said.
“I just don’t want you to make us out like villains, Mr. Crow. I ran that store in tip-top shape,” Parsons said.
“The point is, when you were operating that store, you were violating the ordinance,” Crow continued.
“People weren’t sitting there getting drunk,” Parsons answered.
“The point of the beer ordinance with food in a restaurant is that you go there to eat and drink a beer. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But if you go there to drink a beer and then leave in that automobile, that is a different story,” Crow said.
“I understand that,” Parsons said.
Parsons then said a permit to allow hot beer for off-premises consumption would help keep the business open.
“If you don’t want to let us sell cold beer, then let us open the convenience store where we can sell beer,” Parsons requested.
The county’s beer ordinance requires 60 percent food sales to 40 percent beer sales in a restaurant to allow the sale of cold beer for consumption on-premises. This requirement is not required for hot beer sales to be consumed off-premise.
District 5 Supervisor Bubba Tillman then noted that the business is already in violation of the beer ordinance.
“Therefore he is not eligible for a beer permit,” Tillman said.
“I am going to make a proposal that we deny it (the permit) based on your past history,” Vaughn said.
Parsons agreed that there have been problems with the business, but said he tried to keep it open to keep the bills paid.
“Mr. Ali, did you ever operate a convenience store before this one?” McMinn asked.
“No, this is my first one,” Ali answered.
“I can tell you that having a beer store on the county line of a dry county, it’s a gold mine to be made. I am familiar with several that went out of business shortly after we legalized beer in this county,”Lee McMinn continued.
LeeMcMinn offered Ali some advice on future operations.
“You have got to know what you are doing. You have to run that business like a business. You have to make your neighbors love you. You have got to treat people right and have what people want to buy in that store,” Lee McMinn added.
Following a motion by Vaughn and second by McMinn, the permit was denied in a unanimous vote.
“What’s the due process if he wants to appeal?” Parsons asked.
Crow said the decision could be appealed in court 10 days after the minutes are approved on the first Monday of February.
“This vote here, as far as y’all are concerned, you are thinking he will never be allowed a beer permit in the county?” Parsons asked.
“I don’t think they can say that. Based on what’s been said here today, that’s the action the board took. No what may or may not occur in the future,” Crow said.
Parsons added that he has always tried to work with the board.
“We try to do things right. I am going to take some of the responsibility of what’s happened here in the last two or three months,” Parsons said.