Spec's location under fire

March 21, 2009 4:33:39 PM PDT
A battle is brewing between Harris County and a local liquor store and it all has to do with the store's location.[SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

Spec's put in a new store off Washington Avenue and Westcott, but the county says it's too close to Memorial Elementary on Arnot.

Neighbors say the Spec's liquor and food store has been a welcome addition to a section of Houston undergoing tremendous growth. Kim Parker dropped by Saturday morning on her way to feed her horse.

"There isn't a grocery store really in close proximity to Washington. I mean I get dinner here, my horse gets carrots. It's not a problem," said Kim.

"It's more than just a liquor store and a wine store. They've got groceries and I think it's a nice addition to the neighborhood," said Kim's husband, Tommy Parker.

That's why many of them say they are surprised to learn the county filed a lawsuit Friday to try to shut the store down. The problem is just 675 feet away in the form of Memorial Elementary School. Under both a city ordinance and the Texas alcohol and beverage code, it is illegal to sell booze within 1,000 feet of a public school.

Spec's says it applied for the permit and license back in December 2007 and received them in February 2008. Now, over a year later, the county is saying neither one is any good.

"The law is the law and you don't want to have an alcoholic beverage location close to a school. The idea is that people are going there to get alcohol, and you just don't want to have certain elements hanging around the schools," said First Assistant Harris County Attorney Marc Hill.

So how did this happen? The county says the city secretary's office made a mistake in issuing the permit and license to Spec's. Court records show the city tried to rescind them in August 2008.

A letter is literally asking Spec's to give the permit and license back. Guess what? Spec's doesn't plan to.

"We dotted our i's crossed our t's. We did everything we needed to do to get a permit," said Spec's Managing Director Hermen Key.

If there is no compromise, neighbors could soon have to go elsewhere for their food and liquor. The county is seeking a temporary injunction to stop Spec's while the case moves forward.

Spec's will be served formally by a process server, probably on Monday. The defendants then have approximately three weeks to answer the lawsuit. Depending on the court's schedule, there will be a hearing on the temporary injunction.

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