After what he calls "a bittersweet victory" before the Shreveport City Council, Bernie Woods says a two-year long battle to open a liquor store in the Highland area may not be completely over.
On Tuesday, the Shreveport City Council approved a special use permit. That allows him to convert a former Circle K into a liquor store on Kings Highway and Gilbert. But the council set one big condition. His store will have to close at 9 p.m.
Woods says that puts him at a competitive disadvantage. Other liquor stores close at 11 p.m., including what will be his nearest competitor -- a Thrifty Liquor on Youree at Stratford.
"Those two hours are crucial," Woods says.
He says the council amendment will effectively send his customers away to competitors.
"We do quite a bit of business from 9 until 11. Quite a bit of business," Woods said from his current store on Lakeshore and Hearne. "That's why liquor stores stay open late. We do more business probably from 9 to 11 than we do from 6 to 7."
Woods says it's a compromise he was forced to take to move forward from a costly, two-year battle.
One citizen after another went before the council in the marathon meeting, urging them to deny Woods a permit altogether.
School board member and nearby resident Don Little told the council, "There are also proven drops in property values which will impact tax receipts for the city."
"Liquor stores and convenience stores of such lead to increased crime and traffic," said another resident on Gladstone, Amy Bokenfohr.
"To come into this neighborhood is like throwing fuel on the fire," said Heidi Gerkin.
Woods vigorously defended his business practices, telling the council, "I never ever, ever got one citation. I've never sold to a minor. I never closed late."
The council voted 6-1 in Woods favor.
Woods said after the decision, "It just doesn't feel glorious -- to feel like you trampled over people who have concerns. Even though those concerns, in my opinion, are just not legitimate."
He says the council move surprised him and his attorney. Woods says he won't fight it -- for now.
"I'm going to do my best to do what I said in terms of opening up a first class store and see what the hours give me. See what comes of it. If in fact I do my part and there's no reason for me to have curtailed hours, then I will seek to get them changed."
Woods says that could mean an appeal to council, or more court action.
Woods says that by the time he makes required improvements to the property, he will have invested $750,000 into the effort.