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Churchgoers unite against proposed ABC store

MURFREESBORO – The meeting room inside Murfreesboro Town Hall was completely filled up during Town Council’s regular meeting here Wednesday. The crowd consisted of concerned community members, many from local churches, who were opposed to the proposed location of a new ABC store in town.

During the Town Council’s regular meeting on May 9, a public hearing was held for citizens to comment on the location proposed by the Hertford County ABC Board for a new store to replace the one located currently located at 911 East Main Street.

As explained by ABC Board attorney Chuck Revelle during that hearing, the Board was looking to build a new store on a 1.08-acre lot located on West Main Street between Dollar General and Graham Hydraulics. They were in the process of purchasing the land but wanted approval from town leadership before proceeding.

No one spoke in opposition during that public hearing, and the only people present in favor of the move were members of the Hertford County ABC Board.

Speaking at the May public hearing, Clarence Jordan, who serves as the Hertford County ABC Board General Manager, explained the new store would be an “open operation” where people can walk in and browse the store’s selection. This is in contrast to the current store’s “counter operation” where alcohol is stored behind bulletproof glass over an inch thick.

Hearing no opposition, the Town Council voted unanimously in favor of the proposed location at the May 9 meeting.

At the most recent Town Council meeting, however, several citizens turned out to express their opposition to the ABC store location, particularly because the lot is directly across the street from Mt. Sinai Church of God. A total of seven people spoke during the public comment period, which is held regularly at the beginning of each council meeting.

“I’ve signed a petition united with nearly 1,000 other community members in opposition to the proposed ABC building location. As a resident in this community, we do not agree to the proposal to place an ABC store in such close proximity to a historic African American church, Mt. Sinai Church of God,” said the first speaker, Julie Everett, who shared the petition with the Council.

Everett shared a letter on behalf of Mt. Sinai’s congregation and Pastor Arthur Clark, who was unable to attend the meeting.

“While it does not violate any minimum distance requirements by law, placing an alcoholic establishment in front of a church establishment should not be authorized,” Everett read before stating several reasons to support their position.

“One: it affects the ability of the church establishment to effectively operate some of its key ministries, being our drug and alcohol abuse ministry. Two: it encourages substance abuse in close proximity to young children. It does not take consideration of the minors we serve in the area. Three: it infringes on our religious respectability, particularly in a state where alcohol isn’t allowed to be sold on Sundays.”

Several of the other speakers, a mix of Mt. Sinai parishioners and pastors from other local churches, echoed the same reasons in opposing the choice of location.

Rev. Dr. Fernando Temple, Pastor of Parkers Grove Baptist Church, said the proposed store is “counterproductive to everything we’re trying to do. I believe it increases the temptation to indulge in alcohol, which again, is counterproductive to all that we stand for as a body of churches.”

“We know firsthand this is not a good idea,” said Pastor Sandy Outlaw of New Vision Ministries. “You’re putting something in walking distance of a larger community of people who already have troubles, who already have struggles, who already face many temptations.”

Elder Wayne Brooks described the ABC store as a “distraction” and said it would be detrimental to their work in the community.

“It (alcohol) destroys homes, it destroys lives,” Brooks said. “And we’re about saving lives.”

Pastor Howard Parker agreed with his colleagues when he stepped up to the podium, noting that statistics have shown how harmful alcohol can be.

Pastor Anthony Rawlings, who serves as President of the Northeastern North Carolina Ministers Alliance as well as pastor of Second Baptist Creeksville Church, also added his thoughts on safety concerns for the store location.

“With the crime that transpires in Murfreesboro, a lot of it is really close to where the proposed location is,” he noted. “We just do not think it is a great move for our beloved community here in Murfreesboro.”

Rev. Dr. James Shearn, Pastor of Jordan Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Winton and President of the Hertford County NAACP, was the last person to speak on the matter, summing up much of what the others had said.

“I stand in opposition to placing an ABC store—a liquor store, if you will—in front of a holy place. Church is holy ground,” Shearn said, mentioning that he didn’t think anyone would want an ABC store located in front of any church.

“I don’t know why we are going to put liquor stores in black neighborhoods,” he added, noting several neighborhoods within walking distance of the proposed Main Street location.

He concluded by asking the council to reconsider the location of the ABC store and to take action on the matter.

Mayor Hal Thomas thanked all the people who spoke and said the council would take the information under advisement.