Kuwauna Gill’s dream of owning a bar will finally come true, though the process has been out of the ordinary.
After overcoming a barrage of opposition from neighbors – sometimes racially motivated – Gill and her business partner Tamara Coleman received a liquor license recommendation for their Kanary bar on Wednesday from members of Mobile City Council .
“I am happy and excited,” said Gill. “It finally happened.”
Speaking about the process after the liquor license recommendation, Gill said the duo had no idea the process would be as arduous as it was.
“We had no idea it would be like this,” she said. “There was no way to know it was going to be so controversial.”
The problem for some neighbors was Gill’s connection to an old bar at the location called Tag. Gill told reporters she had been a contract bartender at Tag before it closed, but had no say in the day-to-day operations of the establishment which angered neighbors. Kanary Bar has been a mobile bartending service for eight years before continuing with its physical location, Coleman said. As such, the women would take care of the bar during special events in Tag.
Despite these concerns from neighbors in the downtown DeTonti Square neighborhood, the Planning Commission approved the N. Jackson Street bar at 179 occupancy, on condition that the owners agree to voluntary restrictions of use on hours of operation. opening and amplified sound. The owners had initially requested an occupancy of over 300 hours and early in the morning.
When Councilors John Williams and Bess Rich questioned the bar decision making without proper representation for District 2, city attorney Ricardo Woods told them that some of the motivations of those who oppose the bar “Just don’t seem fair”.
Williams said he had faced similar situations in District 4 with a few bars, including Shotgun Willie’s, and understood some of the concerns neighbors might have. Rich argued that the issue should be delayed until William Carroll can officially sit on Mobile City Council.
While Woods called some of the neighbors’ concerns “legitimate,” he also called other neighbors who asked Gill and Coleman if they had a criminal history or if they were drug addicts. Woods also told councilors that some neighbors also asked if they lived in Prichard.
As for legitimate concerns, Woods said they had already been addressed by the planning process.
Woods said opponents at the bar were trying to force Gill and Coleman to sign an additional deal with the neighborhood and threatened to suspend the liquor license in the process. Woods said the deal in question was not part of the “process.”
“What’s in front of you is a liquor license,” Woods said. “People try to get a second bite of an apple by holding it upright.”
While no opposition was presented at the meeting, Woods and Williams had a heated exchange following the attorney’s comments regarding the subject matter of the claim.
“I enjoy the lawyer talk, but we all know what the topic is,” Williams said. “For someone to say that John Williams is worried about someone’s skin color is unfounded.
Woods continued to try to clarify his comments and spoke at the same time as Williams on more than one occasion.
“If he interrupts me again, I’m going to ask the guard to throw him out of here,” Williams said of Woods.
Woods, amused by the comment, laughed.
“You can’t do that,” he said.
Williams went on to explain that it is the council’s job to stand up for the residents and that he wished Gill and Coleman the best of luck in the business.
“I never wanted to vote ‘no’ on this,” Williams said.
Woods later clarified that only a member of the senior administration team can legally give an order to a city employee. He also clarified that he did not mean that the city councilor’s apparent opposition to the bar was racially motivated. Woods said he just wanted the board to be aware of some of the objections.
Coleman described the proposed deal to reporters, saying it would impose restrictions not to allow owners to sell tickets to events. The deal also sought not to allow patrons to stand outside the bar and would give neighbors the power to sue if the bar was opened after midnight more than three times, Coleman said. The owners refused to make the deal.
Woods also read aloud a letter against the bar in the file which asked members of the Planning Commission why there was no “entertainment district on MLK (Boulevard)”.
Vice-Chairman CJ Small called the letters and questions about Gill and Coleman “very, very disturbing.”
“It’s very hurtful that someone brings up MLK or Prichard,” Small said. “Just because someone was arrested 15 years ago and hasn’t been sentenced doesn’t mean they have to follow them all their life. It’s very hurtful against the African American community.
Gill and Coleman said they plan to open the bar before Thanksgiving.
In other cases, council delayed a vote for a week to confirm Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s appointment as chief of police. Board members each said they would vote for Major Paul Prine to formally take the job, but Williams refused unanimous consent that would have allowed the board to vote on the nomination on Wednesday. Williams said he wanted to meet with Prine before voting. Prine is expected to be approved next week.