Southeast residents in the single member district, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 7FO1 are fighting a local shop owner's application for a beer and wine license because they feel there are already too many establishments selling alcoholic beverages in their area.
Controversy centers around Jones Delicatessen at 453 Chaplin St. SE. owned by Alfred and Mary Jones of Seat Pleasant, Md. The shop opened in March but was closed by arsonists in June.
The skirmish between the community and the Joneses has been going on nearly four months. ANC chairman Joseph Thompson said the commission filed a protest with the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, attended a hearing in April and , at the board's request, filed a report of the community's findings. Board officials then said they would set a protest hearing date but Thompson said the ANC has not heard from them.
Residents also expressed concern that ABC allowed Jones to withdraw his first application made in December, 1976, after it had been acted upon in April. ABC records show that Jones made the withdrawal request in June after discovering he'd filed the wrong shop address on the form.
For several years, liquor has flowed in shops bordering the tiny, residential community located between Fort DuPont and Benning Heights. Many of the residents said they have lived there 20 years or more and have never known liquor to be sold in the area. They want to keep it that way.
What they also want is a local grocery store. Since Food Plaza, located a few doors down from Jones' Delicatessen, was burned down, shoppers have had to travel about a mile down Benning Road to find a supermarket.
"We don't need no liquor stores. We got enough liquor stores around us now," complained Hortense Johnson, 63. "We need a grocery store or a drugstore. We have a lot of children and we need a place for them to get things."
Constance Thompson agree.
"We have three schools within the boundary of Mr. Jones' business," said the wife of the ANC chairman. "We don't want the children to be exposed to that."
John Francis, a retired postman whose home is next door to the delicatessen, said he doesn't want to be exposed to the environment he feels the sale of alcohol will create.
"You ride through this town and every black neighborhood is loaded with liquor sotes, apartment houses and gas stations," he siad. "They look like junk houses."
On July 20, community residents and Jones met at the ABC office in the District Building, E and 14th Streets NW, for a hearing on the application.
Residents said they assumed that this was the longawaited protest hearing. It was not. They will have to return for the protest hearing later.
"We don't have the financial resources or skill to be down here fighting the ABC," said Thompson, who added that a bus had been chartered to bring nearly a dozen people to the office.
"We're complaining about we were here approximately two months ago. We filed a protest, came for the hearing - now they tell us we have to come back again.
"We need to raise some hell! You've got a lot of little people here who care about their community. They're home owners trying to work in the system. But unless you come in with a ferocious attitude you don't get nothing!"
The community, said Thompson, has begun to view the problem as "a struggle between the people (in Southeast) and the system (the beverage control board)."
"Most people think it's going to be a liquor license mostly," said Jones. "But they've been misinformed."
Raymond J. Taylor, another retired government worker, said he has been working with civic groups since 1957 to keep alcohol from being sold in the community.
But every few years, he said, the problem pops up again. Just like a persistent weed.
"It's a diehard few want it (liquor) and a diehard few who don't," he shrugs.
Jones said he hasn't received any encouragement from Alcoholic Beverage Control Board that the application will be approved. If it is not, he said he'll still operate his store, once it has been renovated.
"The area should be more concerned with arsonists," he said. "We received quite a bit of damage." Still, the beer and wine license is foremost in his mind. He contends that quite a few area people drink. And that's resident Martha Spann's point exactly.
Drinkers "don't let you sleep," she said. "They're up and down the street fighting. A liquor store - that's all they need!