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Somalis In City Heights Lead Fight Against Liquor License

Aired 5/9/12 on KPBS News.

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.

Ahmed Malinomar is leading the opposition to a liquor license for a store tha...
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Above: Ahmed Malinomar is leading the opposition to a liquor license for a store that's right next to a mosque on University Avenue.

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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Avatar for user 'Studying_Nomad'

Studying_Nomad | May 9, 2012 at 4:43 p.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

What!? The Somali community has a say in this? I was under the impression that they came over here on our tax dollars as refugees. Have they paid that money back or are they still living on it? I'm offended that they feel they can object to a business owner trying to compete. They are already taking business away from him with their stores and now they're trying to sabotage his adaption to market pressures. They need better excuses then the ones that they came up with. If they don't like it, then they shouldn't spend money at that store. If they don't like the people that may or may not be drawn to the parking lot then they should control loitering as a community.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | May 9, 2012 at 5:48 p.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

People need to realize the United States is a secular and diverse nation with many different cultures and customs living side by side.

I was an ardent supporter of the mosque proposed blocks from ground zero. Muslims died at ground zero, and the mosque absolutely had a right to exist.

But much like the idiots who protested the mosque were out of line, the Somalis here are out of line. They have every right to worship and live as they please, but **no religious organiations** have any right to dictate what happens in our society outside of their churches, mosques, and temples.

My opinion on this is exactly the same as it would be if this were a Christian Church trying to prevent a business from opening up.

It's a religious overstep, and religion has absolutely no place in our law, including city business license approvals.

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Avatar for user 'Mose'

Mose | May 10, 2012 at 10:06 a.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

@ Studying Nomad,

Somalis have a say in what happens in their community, regardless of how they came to America, all lawful residents should be treated equally. What you're suggesting is to relegate Somalis to 2nd class status. Please read the constitution.

@Peking Duck,

Where does it say that Somali opposition to the liquor license is based on religious grounds? Thats purely your interpretation. Apparently they feel that loitering and alcohol consumption aren't exactly "family friendly" in an area where families and little kids frequent. In a vacuum, I think most non Muslims would agree with that sentiment. Unfortunately anything that has to do with Muslims is viewed purely through the scope of religion. The reality is that there are appropriate channels by which communities can regulate businesses inorder to mitigate any negative impact to their quality of life. The Somalis are not rioting and using violence and intimidation. Their actions are entirely appropriate and probably wouldn't cause a fuss if they weren't Muslim.

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Avatar for user 'DiversityRules'

DiversityRules | May 10, 2012 at 11:29 a.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

This is a short sided, polarizing story where the reporter threw out the details of 6 other interviews and went for an effortless myopic cultural expose. The full story is one that begins at the City Heights Planning Committee where the applicant's attorney presented false information; where the store manager made a case for cheaper beer and wine; where the police and cycle issue reports were loaded with unsubstantiated statements and conflicting information leading to a recommended approval of the alcohol license largely on the basis because it would be a benefit to residents who don't have cars; where Public Health professionals testified and demonstrated neighborhood impacts and law enforcement costs that would follow an approval of this type; and where over 50 neighbors took time away from their families to say they do not want or need another liquor market to their adjacent churches, schools, and homes. The real story is found in the details.

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Avatar for user 'Studying_Nomad'

Studying_Nomad | May 10, 2012 at 2:48 p.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

The most irritating part of this issue is that we sell alcohol just about everywhere, and if this were CVS next to their Mosque it wouldn’t even be a controversy. This is a small shop trying to compete. This neighborhood may have a large Somali community, but that’s not the only community there. If the neighborhood did not want to have alcohol sold there, then there would be no profit in it for the seller and therefore not in his interest to sell it. I don’t even drink, but we need to stop attacking the small business owner for trying to legally make a profit.

Mose: They don’t have full constitutional rights unless they are naturalized – read your constitution. However, I will admit to being annoyed at the lack of transparency in terms of what exactly they are getting from tax payers and I took it out on the individual, which is something I consciously try to avoid. Getting the gov involved over nonsense is a waste of tax dollars.

Drop the Muslim argument. Nobody in infringing on their rights to freely worship wherever or whenever they want. They are infringing on a business owner to conduct business as he sees fit. The owner should only be denied the right to sell alcohol because he has done something illegal. Trying to stop the license with a preemptive argument about the imagined people who will shop there is garbage. I doubt one more store selling alcohol in the neighborhood is going to have a detrimental impact on the community.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | May 10, 2012 at 8:30 p.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago


"family friendly" is subjective, overused, and has become code talk for religions of many stripes when trying to force their doctrines onto others.

The bottom line is it's not the government's job to child-proof society.

If family values are taught properly in the home, "temptations" in society should not be a problem.

I also know very good parents who enjoy a glass of wine with dinner or a cocktail party on the weekend, so I don't automatically correlate alcohol sales with poor family values.

I am very proud of San Diego's Somali community and think it makes us all richer bringing their culture to our city.

But I have very strict viewpoints on separation of church and state and I think eroding these separations no matter how slight can destroy and corrupt a society far more than liquor stores do.

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Avatar for user 'Mose'

Mose | May 10, 2012 at 10:12 p.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

Peking Duck,

You're assuming that the Somalis' religious beliefs and a general opposition to alcohol sales are whats driving their concerns, but the article mentioned no such thing (you may have been misled by references to a mosque and islamic school) . Nor does the article say that the Somalis are the only ones attempting to block the liquor fact quite the opposite, says that Somalis are only a part of the neighbors who organized to oppose it: "a lot of the neighbors rose up, many of them Somalis". For all we know most of those opposed to the plan are atheists (just making a point). So why single out Somali Muslims? It also mentions that the neighborhood already has a plethora of liquor stores, so it obviously isn't a move to ban alcohol.

I urge you to read the article again without letting your imagination run wild. This has nothing to do with religion in my opinion. Most parents feel they should have some kind of agency over what their kids are exposed to regardless of their religious beliefs. Nobody likes to see loiterers and/or intoxicated individuals in full view of their kids. I personally know some non-religious folk who moved out of certain neighborhoods for those very reasons. Lets just think it through before we start drawing larger conclusions based on an article that has precious few facts and even less details. We're always so quick to be outraged about something in this country. Its getting ridiculous.

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Avatar for user 'Mose'

Mose | May 10, 2012 at 10:37 p.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

Studying Nomad,

How do you know they're not citizens? Refugees are eligible for citizenship after 5 years of residence,....most Somalis arrived in the late 1990s. Do the math.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | May 11, 2012 at 9:48 a.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

Probably Iraqis of Eastern Catholic persuasion. They are the ones selling alcohol to the Muslims and creating social havoc that was never seen before the First Gulf War. All they care about is profit (many came over with money) and they don't even have good business practices. I hope this neighborhood prevents them from obtaining such licenses.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | May 11, 2012 at 9:53 a.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

STUDYING NOMAD, people like you make me laugh. You support our gung ho imperialist sabber-rattling which always results in taking people from the invaded country, only to be recieved with contempt which is what you are demonstrating here.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | May 11, 2012 at 9:57 a.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

DUCKSTER, there is "code" on BOTH sides of the politcal aisle. You are reading things into this story that are not present in this case.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | May 11, 2012 at 10:01 a.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

"But I have very strict viewpoints on separation of church and state and I think eroding these separations no matter how slight can destroy and corrupt a society far more than liquor stores do"

Some would say stereotypical, bigoted and even wearing it on your sleaves.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | May 11, 2012 at 10:03 a.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

DIVERSITY RULES, thank you for your excellent post and keeping emotions out of it, which i admit I do not do myself--it is just that some people can be so frustratingly narrow-minded.

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Avatar for user 'Mose'

Mose | May 11, 2012 at 11:16 a.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago


No need to blame things on "eastern catholic iraqis", just like we don't need to blame things on "Somali muslims". Thats extremely ignorant. Lets all be a little responsible with our words.

Again,..this article is not about religion, or politics, or war. Its really just a civic complaint from a group of neighbors (not all of them Muslim). We don't need to turn this into a cosmic Secular-Religious conflict.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | May 11, 2012 at 12:01 p.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

True, Mose, but I am more familiar with Iraqi Catholics personally and otherwise. It is a fact that they have a higher median income than most Iraqi Muslims and they do sell alcohol to Muslim. (They are also highly defensive when referred to as Arabs) I like your second paragraph but there are some cultural elements at play here.

STUDYING NOMAD, FYI, before you go on a tangent about Somalis, see the CNN article by Stephanie Siek on foreign-born people of the US, European immigration is at 12%; African at a paltry 4%.

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Avatar for user 'Mose'

Mose | May 11, 2012 at 12:18 p.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago


Are you familiar with every single Iraqi Catholic? If not, I suggest you refrain from generalizing about them. I can't count the times I've seen knuckleheads on the internet say "I know many Muslims and...[insert bigoted comment about Muslims]".

There are billions of Muslims,..hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians. Generalizing about any group is pretty useless.

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Avatar for user 'Dothscribble'

Dothscribble | May 11, 2012 at 2:05 p.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

The pattern of third word immigrants to refuse adoption of this grand culture robs us of the American setting where children of founding ancestry can learn it and promote it. More denial will foster a Generation gap like no other.
"Are the foreigners home from school yet?".
Without integration, Disintegration rules.

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Avatar for user 'Mose'

Mose | May 11, 2012 at 2:56 p.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago


Complete rubbish. Those are simply empty slogans, no such "pattern" exists of "third world" immigrants not integrating. Similar tripe was claimed about German, Irish, Italian and Jewish immigrants. Our willingness to repeat the mistakes of our forefathers is truly staggering. People never learn I guess.

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Avatar for user 'Studying_Nomad'

Studying_Nomad | May 11, 2012 at 3:40 p.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

I figured they would call themselves Somali-Americans if they were citizens. If these where white American’s trying to prohibit a medical marijuana dispensary from conducting business in their neighborhood I’d have a similar response. I’ve already admitted that I was out of line terms of targeting their immigration status. Let’s be honest though, the store owner that I’m defending is most likely an immigrant as well. Sorry, but I’m not going to give this group extra slack because they are black Muslims. I think it’s fair to assume that there is at least some religious motivation behind their anger at store wanting to sell liquor NEXT to their Mosque.

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Avatar for user 'Dothscribble'

Dothscribble | May 11, 2012 at 4:14 p.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

A virtual and paper county map delineating known Ghettos should be readily accessible
for citizens and tourists alike. So armed, the county will avoid bankruptcy due to liability otherwise. "It's warned to avoid that area!"

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Avatar for user 'Jesse Thomas'

Jesse Thomas | May 11, 2012 at 11:33 p.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

Clearly the liquor licensing issue is a competition protection racket brought about by the State of California (and all other govenments involved in licensing)

The state is the real criminal here: ABC gives permission after they have been fed enough money and after begging permission to sell liquor. That process has nothing to do with its stated purpose but to grow the state and justify hiring fat bureaucratic government slobs who make it a full time business of sending in harry 20 year-old to purchase beer, for the purpose of shaking down the business with a 2500 dollar fine.
Screw the government and shame on those who support the racket.
People should be free to sell whatever they want, and buy whatever they want, so long as they don't impose on anyone on a non-voluntary basis.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | May 14, 2012 at 9:39 a.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

@MOSE, my statements regarding Catholic Iraqis (I refrain from calling them Chaldean) come from my own readings in ME history/poltics and are backed by an Algerian friend. It is a matter of national cultural patterns, and you will find these in every culture/society, we just happen to be talking about Iraqis in this case. And believe me, THEY ARE defensive about being referred to as Arabs. Don't believe me, try it.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | May 14, 2012 at 9:43 a.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

GOTHSCRIBBLE, reread your immigration history. The Euros that came through Ellis Island were not fleeing wars in their home countries, unlike the Somalis or the Iraqis. Yes, it was a VERY different motivation. And remember, it was the white anglo saxon Protestant that didn't wan't to integrate them: see Irish (1840s, 1850s, Chinese 1860s, 1870s, Italians, 1890s).

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | May 21, 2012 at 10:32 a.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

Missionaccomplished, you say that Eastern Catholics are selling alcohol to Muslims? Isn't alcohol haram? So if it is, a Muslim would not be buying alcohol. This if someone buys alcohol, they are not a Muslim but merely an impostor professing to be Muslim when they are actually not. No one is forcing Muslims to go against their religion.

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Avatar for user 'dennis53paradis'

dennis53paradis | June 1, 2012 at 5:11 p.m. ― 4 years, 9 months ago

I've known this man for 20 years, and He is just trying to compete, what is wrong with that!? I buy from him all the time, I know what he has to put up with! Just let him sell!

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