Citing neighborhood protestors, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has delayed granting a license to a new liquor store at 4301 Rio Mesa Drive near Buffalo Gap Road in south Abilene.
In a March 14 TABC letter to the owners of FILO Liquors, the TABC noted receipt of the new store's application but that it had “received protests from local citizens.” After a TABC investigation and legal review, enough information exists to warrant a hearing but that the agency “will not join with the protest,” the TABC letter said.
It is unclear when and where the hearing will be held.
According to a news release from the public relations firm associated with the FILO Liquors owners, neighborhood protesters have submitted several complaints and objections “to the opening of this state-of-the-art facility.”
The store is located near a neighborhood off of Buffalo Gap Road between Antilley Road and FM 707 (Beltway South).
"Some of these (objections) include the concern over traffic and the unfounded and unsubstantiated concern about crime,” the news release said, noting the co-owners of the liquor store – Jim Cockfield and Chris May – are military veterans with more than 50 years of combined service.
Meanwhile, some neighbors say they have various reasons to protest the location of the liquor store.
"It just creates a little bit of uncertainty and uneasiness for us that if we had known that was going to be there, we probably would've reconsidered where we decided to plant our family for the long haul," said Michael Trook, who lives in the neighborhood.
"When I moved here seven years ago, I really never expected to have a liquor store right outside my backyard," said Diego Uribe, who lives a few houses away from FILO Liquors.
“I feel bad for the owner because probably he’s a former military member himself. He probably invested a lot of money in this, and it's just unfortunate that we find ourselves in this situation right now.”
In the FILO Liquors news release, Cockfield said it is especially frustrating “for us who are attempting to become small business owners and who have invested our life savings into the facility.”
“We only wish to become a contributing, taxpaying business in Abilene,” Cockfield said. “We have both chosen Abilene to be our hometown for our families. We hope to gainfully employ several Abilene citizens and to provide a convenient location for wine, beer and spirits to be purchased by the people who live in the ever-expanding area on the south side of Abilene.
“While it doesn't make a difference to those protesting our business, it makes a difference to Chris and I who are losing sales during this time."
Cockfield said his only source of income currently is his military retirement.
It "pays my mortgage that's about it we've been spending my partner and I haven't spending a small fortune getting the place open I'm down to about three months worth of funds now," Cockfield said.
According to May, Abilene needs to “do everything it can to help its small businesses and to make every effort to make sure we’re not handicapped in opening the store.”
"We couldn't be more excited to open the store and hopefully this is only a slight setback in our aspirations to bring a facility of this caliber to Abilene," May said in the release.
Meanwhile, May said the business has an occupancy permit from the city of Abilene and that the Abilene City Council approved “all of our permits and we meet all codes (state and local) and have passed all inspections.”
Jon James, the city of Abilene’s director of planning and development services, said FILO Liquors has gone through the normal city processes, including site plan review, building permits and certificate of occupancy.
“All of these occurred within our normal time frames and they did not experience any delay in the approval processes,” James said. “We have issued their certificate of occupancy, so as far as the city is concerned they are ready to open.”
James said FILO Liquors’ Rio Mesa property was rezoned “for this type of commercial development back in the 1990s.”
While the city has received complaints about FILO Liquors opening over the phone, James said there have been “no formal written complaints.”