Urban core convenience store needs church approval to sell hard liquor

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The owner of an urban core convenience store says Kansas City won't allow him to sell hard liquor, even though he has a full package liquor license.

Selling alcohol on the east side continues to divide neighbors.

This corner was the scene of civil unrest more than 20 years ago, and the owner of this store believes that's what's making it a lot harder for him to sell hard liquor, compared to other retailers nearby.

Michael Thomas has owned and operated the shop for ten years. And he says during that time he's run a clean operation, with no reports of trouble.

It has taken him more than eight years to get a conditional package liquor license, with the consent of surrounding property owners. But after he recently stocked his store with hard liquor, he claims he was surprised to learn that a nearby church is listed on his license and must provide written approval to the city before hard liquor sales are allowed.

"They are making them (the church) more or less regulate me, when they are like, 'No the man has done his job, he has not had any trouble in 10 years. We don?t feel we should have any part in it any more,'" Thomas said.

The pastor of Highland Missionary Baptist Church has not returned phone calls from FOX4, but Thomas says the church has not provided a letter to the city.

Neighborhood groups including Sante Fe and Washington Wheatley continue to oppose expansion of liquor sales in the area, saying alcohol breeds crime and there are already plenty of places to buy liquor nearby.

Thomas believes the restriction on his liquor license is unprecedented. And he claims he's being treated differently than his competitors. City regulator Jim Ready says concerns from neighbors prompted him to include church approval in writing as part of the liquor license agreement. He says all parties were aware of this condition when the license was granted.