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Somalis In City Heights Lead Fight Against Liquor License

The move to create a new liquor store next to a mosque in City Heights has led to intense neighborhood opposition.

There’s a corner of University Avenue in San Diego that’s home to a store called University Market. It’s also home to a Buddhist Temple, a mosque and an Islamic parochial school.

Special Feature Speak City Heights

Speak City Heights is a media collaborative aimed at amplifying the voices of residents in one of San Diego’s most diverse neighborhoods. (Read more)

So when University Market applied for a beer and wine license, and got a favorable recommendation from the police department, a lot of neighbors rose up … many of them Somalis.

Ahmed Malinomar, a Somali community leader in San Diego, said liquor licenses are magnets for crime and loitering, and they create even more troubles for low-income neighborhoods like City Heights. He added that the number of liquor stores in City Heights is depressing.

“Just drive down University Avenue and count the liquor stores,” he said. “How many do you need?”

This week, the City Heights Community Planning Committee responded to intense pressure from people who live near the store and voted to oppose a conditional-use permit to allow the market to sell alcohol.

The manager of University Market asked we not use his name. But he argued that so many stores in the vicinity sell beer and wine, one more liquor license would make no difference.

“There’s a 7-Eleven across the street. They sell beer and wine and they’re open 24 hours,” he said. “It’s the same area, same everything!”

He said he needs to sell alcohol, due to financial competition form many new Somali markets that have opened across the street and right next door to him. He said University Market has been a friend to San Diego Somalis, allowing members of the mosque to use the parking lot. Yet they have organized the opposition to his liquor license.

The question of the conditional use permit now goes before the San Diego Planning Commission. Islam forbids the use of alcoholic beverages, but Somalis I spoke with said that is not an issue in this debate.

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