The City of Brownwood will seek an injunction to stop a convenience store located near a Brownwood school district facility from selling alcoholic beverages.
Brownwood City Council members authorized City Attorney Pat Chesser Tuesday to ask the Texas Attorney General’s Office, the District Attorney’s Office and the County Attorney’s Office to seek an injunction from district court to stop alcohol sales at Food Plaza No. 9, at 2800 Southside.
Chesser and City Manager Bobby Rountree said any of those three entities can seek an injunction.
Council members had already dealt with the issue in January, when they denied by a 3-2 vote, a variance that would have allowed the store to sell alcohol. The store is catty-cornered from the school district’s administrative offices and alternative school.
City officials said they were never notified of a July 24 hearing in Brown County Court in which PF&E Oil Co., doing business as Food Plaza No. 9, applied for a wine and beer retailer’s off-premise permit for the store.
Brown County Judge Ray West appointed Justice of the Peace Jim Cavanaugh to preside as hearing officer, and Cavanaugh, after hearing testimony from PF&E and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, ruled that the store should be granted a permit.
Rountree said city officials found out about the hearing after the fact and learned that the store is now selling alcoholic beverages.
Cavanaugh’s office notified the heads of the two local law enforcement agencies of the hearing — Brownwood Police Chief Virgil Cowin and Brown County Sheriff Bobby Grubbs — documents in Cavanaugh’s office show.
“I talked to Jim (Cavanaugh), and Jim said he sent me a letter, and if he did, I didn’t get it,” Cowin said. He said had he received a letter about the hearing, he would have notified the city attorney.
Rountree said, “Neither the city attorney, nor the mayor, nor the city manager, nor the city council, were notified of the hearing, so therefore we were not there to present any testimony regarding our position. We did not have the opportunity to present our side at the hearing.”
In January, council members denied a request for a variance from Steve Fryar of PF&E. Council members said the store’s property line is 111 feet from the property line of the BISD’s administration building and guidance center.
City ordinance prohibits the sale of alcoholic beverages if the business is within 300 feet of a church, public or private school or public hospital.
After voters approved the sale of alcoholic beverages in south Brownwood in 2004, a city ordinance prohibited sales if the front door of a store was within 300 feet of a church, school or hospital. In 2005, the council amended the ordinance to measure the 300 feet from property line to property line.
After the July 24 hearing, Cavanaugh issued a ruling noting that the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission prohibits the sale of alcohol within 300 feet of a school, church or hospital. “ … Expert testimony from the Brown County surveyor shows (the Food Plaza store) is not within the limit,” Cavanaugh’s ruling states.
Evidence presented also showed that the BISD facility is “not truly a public school, but is rather the administration building” of the district, the ruling states. Cavanaugh noted the presence of the alternative school on the BISD property but stated in his ruling that it is “not a school by standard definition.”
Rountree said if city officials had been present at the hearing, they would have argued that Food Plaza should not be allowed to sell alcohol because of the city ordinance that specifies the measurement is from property line to property line — 111 feet in the case of the Food Plaza and the BISD facility , Rountree said.
“Let them file it and we’ll see where it goes,” PF&E attorney Bill Bell said of the city’s intent to seek an injunction. “We introduced testimony from the surveyor that the school building proper is not within the prohibited distance.”
Bell said the BISD facility was bought for administrative purposes and the alternative school is more than 300 feet from the Food Plaza.
BISD Superintendent Reece Blincoe said the facility is “absolutely a campus” and has a principal, teachers, campus ID number and receives state ratings. Blincoe said he is opposed to the Food Plaza being allowed to sell alcohol.
“It is clearly a violation of city ordinance,” Blincoe said. He said when the city council denied the variance in January, “we thought that was the end of it.”