Activists ramp up battle over Heights alcohol sale

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Stakeholders on both sides of Proposition 1, which would allow off-premises alcohol sales in parts of the Heights, are ramping up their efforts as Election Day approaches.

A final push is underway from both sides of the argument over an ordinance change that would bring off-premises alcohol sales to a section of the Heights.

Scott McClelland, president of HEB Houston, spent part of his weekend knocking on doors, urging Heights residents to vote for Proposition 1, which would allow the sales. It's a change the company wants before building a new store at 23rd and Shepherd.

"We think the ability for people to buy a six-pack of beer or bottle of wine and take it home will only add to the community," McClelland said.

Ashish Mahendru is an attorney in the Heights who is working to defeat Proposition 1. He said the neighborhood's dry zone is crucial to its identity.

"We're not prohibitionists. We enjoy our beer as much or more than the president of HEB," Mahendru said.

He said he's rallying the vote against the effort, but he believes HEB has time and funding on its side.

"[HEB was] changing the entire rules of engagement for our neighborhood for one single store," Mahendru said.

Mahendru said the ordinance change could open the door for gas stations and convenience stores to open in the neighborhood, something he is opposed to.

"The things that make the Heights special are the small bungalows, the Victorian architecture and the people who live here," McClelland said.

A lease signed in May for HEB to open another new store just outside the dry-zone complicates the issue. HEB signed the lease to open the location at Washington Avenue and Heights Boulevard, according to lease documents. It's about three miles away from the Shepherd site.

Mahendru said if more residents were aware of what he believes is the poorly-publicized Washington Avenue location, they wouldn't be so eager to change the Heights' history for the Shepherd location.

For now, people have to leave the dry section to get beer and wine. It's a small price to pay to preserve the area, according to Mahendru. McClelland and Prop 1 supporters call that an outdated idea.

"This dry area has been in place for 104 years," Mahendru said.

"This ordinance began before women could vote. That's how old it is and so we think it's time for the Heights to move forward," McClelland said.

Election Day is Tuesday, November 8.
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politicshouston politics2016 electionalcoholHeightsHouston
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