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Liquor Store Opens in Covington - but in the Wrong Part of Town

A new liquor store has run afoul of the City of Covington's zoning code - and that may cost a family their $500,000 investment.

Liquor Express has taken over the space on Martin Luther King Boulevard/12th Street that has long been a convenience store. That would be fine if liquor were not the main item for sale in the shop. The city's zoning code for the so-called Linden Gateway area in which the store resides mandates that sales of intoxicating beverages are only permitted as a secondary/ancillary use limited to 10 percent of the floor area of the principal use.

Covington zoning administrator Alex Koenig informed Liquor Express co-owner Reza Alimardani that the shop is in violation and cannot continue to operate. Alimardani appealed the decision and appeared before the city's board of adjustment on Wednesday.

Alimardani's main argument was ignorance.

"We misunderstood this whole concept and I don't know who we should blame this situation on," Alimardani said. He and his brother, who co-own the shop, said they made their intentions clear when they purchased the building but never explored city regulations related to selling liquor at the site. They got the necessary sales permit from the Commonwealth of Kentucky and had their new signage approved by Koenig, but remained unaware of the zoning code in Covington.

The brothers were not attempting to be sneaky. How could they be? Liquor Express is located on the newly widened and heavily trafficked boulevard. "We had to apply for the liquor license, which is in Frankfort, and they made us make an advertisement in the newspaper," Alimardani told the board of adjustment. "We thought when we applied for the license, this communication would be between Frankfort and the City of Covington. We did not know we had to separately follow a zoning rule."

The board of adjustment members were sympathetic to Alimardani's situation.

"Everybody up here and in this room is business-friendly and wants to see a business prosper and survive," said Marc Tischbein, chair of the board of adjustment. "However, we have zoning rules and codes." He said that he would support exploring options, but not any that would lead to more liquor stores "to open up and down 12th Street."

Neighbors are also supportive of Liquor Express. Members of the Westside Action Coalition signed a letter of support for Alimardani and his new business.

"We quickly came to the conclusion that this business was a marked improvement in the neighborhood over what had been there previously," said Mark Young, president of the Westside Action Coalition. He cited fewer liquor bottles, less loitering, and less littering in people's yards. There was criminal behavior at the previous business there, he said. "These folks have been outstanding neighbors."

Liquor Express has been open since last fall and hopes to remain open. Ultimately, the board of adjustment agreed to allow some options to be explored and to revisit the issue at its meeting next month. One option is to see if the liquor sales can be condensed to just 10 percent of the sales floor, which could technically make it legal. Koenig will visit the store soon to see if that is possible.

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher
Photo: Liquor Express (RCN)