New Haven officials are considering an ordinance that would ban 24-hour convenience stores from operating in city neighborhoods and limit various businesses from remaining open between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. The City Plan Commission approved the ordinance Nov. 19, and the Board of Aldermen will hold a committee meeting on the measure on Dec. 23.
The ordinance says these regulations are necessary to deal with crime and quality of living standards in the city’s neighborhoods.
“It’s a way to figure out how to deal with the fact that 24-hour convenience stores, where drug dealer and gangs often meet up, are convenient congregation points for unfortunate middle-of-the-night dealings,” Ward 1 Alderman Ben Healey ’04 said.
Businesses subject to the ordinance would include pawn shops, gun shops, adult entertainment businesses, transient lodging services, food and drug stores, laundering services and automotive services.
Ward 16 Alderman Raul Avila, who initiated the ordinance with the City Plan Commission, said he has had to deal with many issues that involve disorderly conduct and antisocial behavior near 24-hour neighborhood convenience stores surrounding the intersection of Chapel and Ferry streets, particularly in the past six to eight months.
“People feel that it creates a situation for behavior that’s not helpful to the neighborhood,” Avila said. “The ordinance would help residents enjoy their neighborhood in peace.”
Avila said although he does not want to interfere with business, the concerns of the neighborhood are a top priority.
“I don’t have a problem with anyone running a legitimate business, but you need to take some responsibility — if not, then you can’t run it at certain hours,” Avila said.
The ordinance would not affect businesses in the city’s downtown area that keep late-night hours, including popular Yale hangouts like Gourmet Heaven and A-One Pizza. Healey said the focus of the ordinance is on New Haven’s neighborhood communities, while downtown remains a separate issue.
Businesses currently in operation would also not be affected by the ordinance, as they would be grandfathered-in by city zoning laws. Only new businesses would be subject to the regulations.
But several convenience store owners oppose the ordinance. Gerry Katz, owner of Gerry’s Shell Food Mart on Willow Avenue, said he and many other shopholders don’t think it is a good idea.
“It is absolutely ludicrous that an alderman would come up with this. There’s no support from anyone with intelligence,” Katz said.
Katz said that 20 percent of his store’s business comes during the evening hours, and about 10 percent of those customers come for necessary items such as milk, medication, baby formula and gasoline. He said although there have been robberies over the years, a major oil company such as his — with proper lighting and cameras — should not be forced to close from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.
“I disagree that a convenience store is going to create crime — if anything, a well-lit store will deter crime,” Katz said.
Katz said customers he has spoken with are “outraged” by the proposed restrictions. He, along with other store owners, are planning to petition against the ordinance.
Avila acknowledged there is still work to do, and city officials will need to keep listening to the concerns of the community.
“You have to think outside the box — we are going to try to be flexible enough to change things,” Avila said, adding that neighborhood residents with whom he has spoken support the ordinance.
The ban on 24-hour convenience stores was first proposed to the Board of Aldermen 10 years ago and has since been a recurrent issue.
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