our view

October 28, 2010

Death shouldn’t kill a business, too

When crime happens in Des Moines, officials now revoke licenses from businesses located near the problem, whether they have anything to do with it or not. This is exactly what happened to Tony Dassan, owner of University Groceries, a laundry and convenience store at 2121 University Ave., when his liquor license was taken away after Martin Turks was shot and killed in the business’ parking lot. Dassan is fighting the decision, and justifiably so.

Even considering the seriousness of this incident, the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division should not revoke licenses for crimes that may or may not be related to alcohol sold at a business. Dassan’s business is a legal entity selling a legal product, and he should have the right to continue to do that. Dassan didn’t shoot the victim. Dassan didn’t assist the alleged shooter. The police don’t even know for certain if Dassan sold alcohol to anyone involved. So why single out this man’s business?

Dassan is a small businessman trying to make ends meet in neighborhood where most would not even attempt to do so. He has employees, a family, a mortgage. This decision will clearly impact his business and him personally.

Police say that allowing the sale of alcohol at Dassan’s shop creates dangerous situations in regards to loitering and criminal activity. We all know that the area has been plagued with crime for decades. Although we applaud the efforts to reduce gang activity, prostitution, assaults, robbery and related crime, city leaders need to understand that one business is not the cause. The problems will simply move down the street, and Dassan will be left bankrupt.

Is it Dassan’s fault that his customers purchase alcohol at a higher percentage than city officials would prefer? Isn’t he simply offering a legal product that his customers want, and that they will most certainly find another place to buy it at? City officials somehow think that if a convenience store sells gas, then everything is OK. Apparently these store owners are doing their jobs effectively if they send customers off with alcohol in vehicles. Where’s the logic in that?

We feel for the family of Martin Turks, as his death was unfortunate and unnecessary, but the person who pulled the trigger should be prosecuted, not the business owner who was simply nearby. CV


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