Two more business owners are losing their business licenses after Decatur Police Department gambling raids last month.
Ameen Alhubaishi, doing business as A&B Enterprises-Sunoco, 102 14th St. S.W., and Marwan Abulohoum, doing business as Vape & More, 1209-K Danville Road S.W., did not show up at Monday’s City Council meeting to defend their businesses.
The City Council voted unanimously to revoke their licenses. The revocations are effective April 6, but the businesses have been shut down since their business licenses were conditionally revoked at the March 2 council meeting.
Council President Paige Bibbee said she believes it was the right step to revoke the licenses of the Sunoco and Vape & More owners since an employee at Vape & More and an employee and owner at Sunoco were charged with misdemeanor promoting gambling.
“Illegal gambling is becoming a problem,” Bibbee said. “And I don’t want our police officers to be putting themselves in harm’s way when they go on a call to these stores.”
Joe Burns, owner of the Danville Road shopping center where Vape & More is located, said he is ready to rent the store to another tenant. He's already spent $500 to get the store back up to city code.
"He (Abulohoum) won't return my calls and he owes me a good bit of money," Burns said. "All that's left is just junk, although there are some glass displays remaining and I do have a friend who is interested in buying them."
Burns already has some potential tenants who are interested in the storefront even though he's worried the coronavirus outbreak could impact his other tenants.
Rick Blow, of Sunset State Oil, said he supplies gas to the Sunoco store in Decatur. He urged the City Council to pull Alhubaishi’s license.
Blow said he’s been unable to reach Alhubaishi for two weeks by phone and text, so he drove to Decatur to see if he could talk in person to his client. He found the 14th Street store almost vacant with little stock remaining.
“He (Alhubaishi) owes us an excessive amount of money,” Blow said.
The latest revocations are the second and third in the last month after the city went at least two decades without revoking any business licenses.
Bibbee said she’s not sure why that’s the case.
“Maybe some councils didn’t want to rock the boat of business,” Bibbee said. “But that’s exactly what we should do if they’re doing something illegal.”
A new interpretation by the Legal Department of a city ordinance will give future business owners more time to prepare to defend against potential business license revocations.
Assistant City Attorney Chip Alexander said the city has extended from two to four weeks the time between the city hearing that starts the process of revoking a business license and the final hearing in which the business owner can appeal to stop the revocation.
Alexander said he and City Attorney Herman Marks made the change after reviewing the ordinance on business license revocations approved in 1984.
The ordinance says license revocations "shall become final at the second regular meeting of the city council following the passage of the resolution conditionally suspending or revoking such license."
While City Council meetings are held weekly, it is not clear that a work session is a "regular meeting" under the ordinance. Business meetings are generally every two weeks.
In response, Bibbee asked the team to make sure the three revocations finalized in March will stand as voted upon.
“I don’t know if our votes will change, but we need to make sure we did things right,” Bibbee said.