Kirkwood votes against supporting liquor license for lounge
By Mariann Martin, contributor
After a lengthy and sometimes heated discussion, the Kirkwood Neighbors’ Organization voted against supporting a liquor license for the Morris Restaurant and Lounge.
The application to sell liquor at the long-time Kirkwood business will next be considered by the Neighborhood Planning Unit at their meeting on April 26. The KNO and NPU votes are only whether or not to support the license, but the License Review Board will consider both votes when they make a decision to approve or deny the license.
The vote against supporting the license was another chapter in what has become a lengthy saga for the historically black-owned business that has been in the community since the 1960’s. Originally owned by Franklin Morris, Sr., his children now run the business after their father passed. The property records list Franklin D. R. and Kenneth Morris as owners, while Porschea Morris has applied for the liquor license.
No one from the Morris family attended the meeting Sunday evening. They also did not attend a zoning and development meeting held on April 6, where the license application was reviewed and discussed.
The business was shut down last year, after the city discovered the new owners did not have a valid business license in their name, but the owners have since gotten a license. They do not currently have a liquor license.
The lounge has been cited for violations of the city’s noise ordinance and police have also been called out after an altercation between the two brothers that included a gun, as previously reported by Decaturish.
About 50 people attended the meeting Sunday evening at the Turner Monumental AME church. During the discussion, several residents raised their voices and accused others of not accurately representing the facts. KNO board members frequently interjected comments and interrupted speakers to calm the discussion.
Community members say the lounge has changed since the change in ownership, citing loud music, drunken brawls and other rowdy behavior. One couple, who lives next to the lounge, described parties on the street after the club closes at 3 a.m., and people urinating in their front yard.
Nazeer Kutty, chair of the zoning committee, said they recommend not supporting the license based on the inaccuracies and discrepancies in the application. Kutty said it was not clear in the application who was running the business, whether it would be run as a restaurant or bar and how far the business was from various public buildings in the community.
“We just wanted to get some clarification and answers to questions,” Kutty said.
But KNO treasurer Justin Andrews said he did not think the opposition to the application was based on inaccuracies in the paperwork.
“I don’t think that is the true reason most people choose to not support it,” he said. “It’s because most people don’t agree with how the operation is run…If they did have the correct information, people still wouldn’t support it – and that’s fine. Just say what it is; don’t say it is for the inaccurate information.”
Several community members agreed with Andrews and said they felt the organization needed to deny support based on the fact that the community does not want the bar in what is a mostly residential neighborhood.
Rosa Poole-Holmes, a long-time Kirkwood resident, spoke in support of the business. She pointed out that many people had bought homes next to the business in the last few years and should have known that their property was adjacent to a bar.
After the meeting, Holmes said the discussion around the lounge brings back unpleasant memories of when her family and other blacks moved into the neighborhood in the 1950s and 60s.
“They didn’t want us here then, and we are reliving that now,” she said.
In the end, the organization voted not to support the application, “based on inaccuracies, discrepancies, and omissions in the application.” There were 16 votes to deny support, 2 in favor, and 9 people abstained.
Geoff Mueller, KNO president, said the organization will continue to meet with all the parties involved and work to find a resolution. He declined to provide further comment, saying he wants to have more discussions with the people involved.
A Kirkwood Community Dialogue meeting will be held on Sunday, April 24 at 6 p.m. at Taproom Coffee. Mueller invited the community to attend to continue discussions about the lounge and other community issues.