09/24/12 — Store objects to club

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Store objects to club

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on September 24, 2012 1:46 PM

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The manager of Maxway presented letters opposing a permit for a nightclub during the public hearing held at the Goldsboro City Council meeting Sept. 17 representing Variety Wholesalers and a property-owning trust downtown.

A personal letter addressed to a Goldsboro City Councilman which was submitted during a public hearing Monday will lead to that member of the council recusing himself from voting on a conditional use permit as it pressures him to vote against the measure, which would allow for a nightclub to open downtown.

Chuck Allen, who owns the building Maxway on Center Street operates in, was addressed personally in a letter from Wilson Sawyer, the chief operating officer and president of Variety Wholesalers, the Henderson-based company that owns and operates Maxway, Roses and other retail establishments across the country.

Connie Parrish, the manager of the Goldsboro Maxway, submitted the letter along with another during the public hearing for Drew Wofford's conditional use permit for the west side of North Center Street between Mulberry Street and Walnut Street.

A second letter was presented on behalf of the John W. Pope Marital Trust, which owns the building across the street from the property where Cititrends operates.

Both letters condemn the issuance of a permit in similar terms, saying that the best use of the property is as retail space and that the operation of a nightclub there would impact patronage, employee recruitment and retention and decrease property value.

The letter addressed to Allen and his wife, Lori, however, seems to contain a threat that if the permit is granted, Maxway may not extend its lease with the councilman and downtown property owner.

"This is to notify you that issuance of the permit would have a substantial adverse impact on our pending decision whether to renew our lease ... for an additional five-year period," the letter reads.

The letter also notes that the business has eight employees and ends with a plea for Allen to oppose the approval of the conditional use permit.

"We trust that you will assist us in our decision regarding this location by registering your opposition to the permit in the appropriate manner," the letter says in closing.

Sawyer said Friday that his company did not realize Allen's affiliation with the city.

"Honestly, we didn't know Mr. Allen was a city councilman," he said. "We were just soliciting help."

He explained that anytime an area where families shop begins to allow bars to open in the vicinity, "it becomes a bad environment to shop."

He softened his rhetoric in the letter, saying that his business feared the unknowns associated with the opening of a nightclub with ABC permits a block away.

"We like doing business with Mr. Allen and we hope to stay there," he said, adding that the issuance of the permit wouldn't necessarily mean Maxway would decline to extend its lease when it runs out in April 2013. "That's to be determined."

Sawyer cited examples in other markets, including Fayetteville, where bars and gambling establishments had reduced his stores' patronage and forced them to leave the location.

In that Fayetteville example, the landlord of a shopping center allowed bars to open up in the same center and that led to the closure of the store.

"There's a potential that could happen," he said.

When asked what he expected his landlord to do about the permit request within a building he doesn't own, especially since he said he didn't know Allen was on the city council, he said he only wanted Allen to speak out against it.

"We wanted him to do the same thing we did and express concern about it," he said.

When asked whether Allen should recuse himself from voting on the permit, Sawyer said the decision was up to Allen and expressed regret that the company had gotten so involved, pointing out the company received word about the permit and was simply sharing its concerns.

"I guess this has gotten out of hand. It makes me feel like we're kind of stupid and we should have just let things alone. If the city of Goldsboro thinks this needs to be turned into an entertainment area then that's to them.

"We're not trying to twist anybody's arm nor the arm of the city."

Allen said he will recuse himself from voting on the matter when it comes before the council.

"What he's done is put me in a conflict of interest when I didn't have one," Allen said Friday. "I'm not even going to vote on it because I think he's put me in a conflict of interest."

He also said that he supports any legal business that aims to open up downtown and that, if he were to vote, he would vote to approve the permit.

He said bringing business downtown is something the city has been invested in for years along with retaining established businesses like Maxway and shared that he hoped the store would remain downtown regardless of the council's decision on the permit.

"It would be my hope that they stay open just like we want any business to stay open," he said.

The Planning Commission will review the permit during its meeting tonight and provide a recommendation to the council at its Oct. 1 meeting.