Voices raised, fingers pointed and tears fell during an emotional hearing on whether to expand a liquor license for a Gifford Park convenience store.
Daniel Dessie of Danny’s Corner Store at 3301 California St. said he’s at a competitive disadvantage to other area stores that can sell more varieties of alcohol.
He asked the Omaha City Council on Tuesday to allow him to upgrade his beer-only liquor license to one that allows him to sell liquor, too.
But some neighbors opposed the change, saying the introduction of more booze would set back efforts to revitalize the Gifford Park neighborhood.
And they pointed out that the location, particularly when it was the K-N-J Grocery Store, has had problems.
Resident Gerry Sullivan brought photos from a recent visit to the store that showed coolers full of beer — including single bottles and cans of beer on ice — and junk food.
“How is this any different than Whiteclay, Nebraska, pushing alcohol sales on low-income people?” he said.
Attorney Chris Estwick, Dessie’s attorney, said that Dessie has turned the store around and that there had been no liquor license violations under him. Dessie, who was in tears through some of the hearing, described the sale of single beers as a “one-time deal” for March Madness.
“There are a lot of neighborhood ills ... that are being unfairly attributed to my client,” Estwick said.
Council Vice President Chris Jerram told Dessie that it was “incomprehensible” that he’d tell the council he needed to upgrade his license to survive when the business has operated since 2012 with a beer-only license.
Jerram proposed approving the upgraded license, but with an exception: No sales of single beers or sales of single small liquor bottles, commonly known as “airplane shooters.”
Dessie agreed and the council approved the proposal 7-0.
The council’s action is a recommendation to the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission, which has ultimate authority.
Councilman Rich Pahls said he saw “very sincere people” on all sides of the matter and urged Dessie to build trust with his neighbors.
”If you’re a cornerstone of that neighborhood, they’re going to be more receptive in the future,” he said.