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Erlanger Grocer: Neighbor Complaints are Because I'm Muslim

EXCLUSIVE

Mohamed Ahmed watched as a pair of women drove up to his grocery, parked their vehicle, got out of the car and began to take a picture of the Dixie Meats sign.

"I tell her, listen, I just want to know why you're taking a picture of the store," Mohamed told The River City News.  "And she tells me, you kill animals here. And I say, yes, I kill animals here. It's my business.

"But that's not the issue. The issue is, I am Muslim and I put my sign up with Arabic on it."

Dixie Meats, the business that Ahmed owns on Dixie Highway, was a hot topic at the Erlanger City Council meeting on Tuesday. Multiple residents showed up at the meeting and addressed city leaders with concerns about the grocery, accusing it of creating sights and odors that make them uncomfortable.

Resident Joy Stamper stated that she heard that Dixie Meats slaughters animals on site and that she couldn't believe that if it were true, it would be allowed in the city near residences. Mayor Tyson Hermes said that he didn't have an answer for her and referred her to City Administrator Marc Fields, who said that he had only heard of this complaint a few hours before the meeting. "It is zoned for a supermarket or food store, and yes they do slaughter some animals there," Fields said. "The health department came in and inspected it on December 22 and they received a 98 out of 100, which is very good."

Blake Weyman, who nearby on Sunset, said that his back yard goes up against the property, and indicated that there are odors and sights that he had never seen before in his eight years at this property. "It just doesn't seem right," he said. Sunset is separated from the store by a strip of tall trees. 

Bill Vogt, from Lafayette Avenue, asked about how the animals are brought to the market, and Fields said he thought that customers would choose the animal from a farm and then the animal is brought to the meat market and slaughtered there. Fields said they were mostly small animals, like goats, lambs and turkeys. He pointed out that Tewes farm, on Kenton Lands Road, also slaughters fowl, and  Bluegrass Meats is located in the same area.

Ahmed gave a tour of his store to The River City News and stated that there are no turkeys brought on site, but there are goats. He said that the animals do not make noises that could be heard. During the interview with RCN, three animals were slaughtered in the back of the building and there were no accompanying related noises. 

"It doesn't seem like a healthy thing," resident Harold Stamper concluded.

Fields explained that Jack Gatlin, city attorney, was going to look into the definition of the supermarket in the zone, but offhand he didn't think that there would be a violation. However, if there are odors or noises or anything else that offended neighbors, that could constitute a violation of a nuisance ordinance and that might be something that could be addressed. Since councilman John Dunhoft had just alerted him to the complaints that day, he promised they would visit the property on Wednesday.

On Thursday, Ahmed was scheduled to meet with Fields.
 
"It is very simple for me. It's because I'm Muslim," Ahmed said. "If I do something illegal, I'm not going to put up a sign on Dixie Highway." He said that his store closes nightly by 9 p.m. and that there are no noises associated with it. 90 percent of his customers, he estimates, are Northern Kentucky Muslims. The Muslim population on the south side of the Ohio River is near 3,000, he said, and prior to his store's opening four months ago, many of Northern Kentucky's Muslims sought out markets in Cincinnati.
 
In order to comply with health requirements and to prepare the site for his operations, Ahmed paid rent at the building for one year before he opened. He has invested $200,000 in Dixie Meats, a type of business that he operated from 2000-2007 in the area before returning to New York City. Ultimately, Ahmed returned to Kentucky where he is raising his American-born son and daughter. "Go to New York, where I came from. They have the same business in downtown Brooklyn," he said.
 
Ahmed co-owns the business with a partner. 
 
"I want everybody to come around here in this area and if you hear anything, I'll close my business and lose the $200,000 I put in it. If it hurts or bothers anybody, I lock the door and I go," he said. 
 
The business is primarily surrounded by other commercial outlets. 100 yards in the back is an apartment community that is separated by woods, and then Sunset is also separated by a stretch of high trees. 
 
"Come at midnight or 1 o'clock at night and if you hear any noise or smell anything, I'll close the door," he said. "But that's not the issue. The issue is I am a Muslim and I put my sign up with Arabic on it."
 
Written by Michael Monks, who interviewed Mohamed Ahmed, & Patricia A. Scheyer, who covered the Erlanger City Council meeting