The DeKalb County Beer Board, following a hearing, voted five to nothing Thursday night to revoke the off premises permit of Nicoles Market at 7024 Short Mountain Highway.
The owner of the store, Areceli Soto has ten days to file an appeal to the Chancery Court through her attorney Frank Buck. Unless a court injunction or restraining order is sought to prevent the beer board from enforcing the revocation, no further beer sales will be permitted at Nicoles Market effective immediately.
Ms. Soto, who apparently speaks little or no English, answered questions from her attorney through her brother who served as an interpreter during the hearing. Her brother also apparently works in the store.
Ms Soto said she has spent about $5,000 upgrading the coolers in the store where the beer is kept and that she has about $5,000 worth of beer in inventory. That investment, she said, would be lost if her beer permit were revoked and she might even have to go out of business. Ms. Soto said she would like to have at least thirty days to dispose of her inventory.
Chairman Mack Harney asked County Attorney Hilton Conger whether the beer board could vote to revoke now and have it take effect November 1st. Conger said a revocation is immediate and the only way it could be postponed would be for the board to delay it's action to revoke until another meeting.
In November 2008, the beer board granted the off premises permit for Nicole's Market apparently not knowing the store is less than 2,000 feet from the Mount Pisgah Free Will Baptist Church, a violation of the county's distance regulations
DeKalb County has a rule forbidding the sale, storage and manufacture of beer and like beverages within 2,000 feet (or some lesser distance) of schools, churches, and other places of public gathering.
In making his case for the revocation, Conger said the county commission, in 1939 adopted a resolution establishing the distance requirement and that Nicole's Market is clearly in violation."The quarterly court of DeKalb County that met in regular session in October 1939 adopted regulations for the guidance of the beer committee which states that no permit shall be issued for the sale, storage, or manufacture of beer at locations which are within 2,000 feet of any church, school, or other place of public gathering. And then we have a survey of Mr. Eugene O'Neil showing that Nicoles Market is 1,439 feet from building to building (to the church). That would be the proof that the county would offer for the revocation of this permit, that it is certainly within the 2,000 foot rule."
Buck asked the board to consider the predicament in which this places Ms. Soto and her family."Gentlemen, these people didn't lie to anybody. They didn't tell any lies here. The board should have probably checked it out (distance between the store and church). We should have probably checked it out. But certainly it's not a circumstance where these people willfully tried to trick anybody. It would be my hope that the board would consider the possibility of permitting these folks to have sixty days to dispose of their inventory, thirty days, or forty five days. Had this been a fraud case, had this been somebody coming in here and not telling the truth, it would be a different matter. But that's not what happened here."
The board, apparently unwilling to wait any longer, voted to revoke the permit. Board member Harrell Tolbert made the motion, based on the proof presented by Conger. Board member Frank Thomas seconded the motion. Board members Harney, Jim Stagi, and Basil Dick Knowles joined Tolbert and Thomas in voting for the revocation. Board members Robert Rowe and Edward Frazier were absent.
Approximately twenty five people, mostly residents of the community, attended the meeting and looked on quietly during the hearing as the board delivered it's decision.