Sophie Bolich

Council Suspends Hot Spot Supermarket Alcohol Sales

Convenience store at 27th Street and Atkinson Avenue will cease alcohol sales through Aug. 14.

By - Aug 3rd, 2023 12:33 pm
Site of Hot Spot Supermarket, 2643 W. Atkinson Ave. Photo taken Aug. 3, 2023 by Sophie Bolich.

Site of Hot Spot Supermarket, 2643 W. Atkinson Ave. Photo taken Aug. 3, 2023 by Sophie Bolich.

Hot Spot Supermarket, a northside convenience store, will cease alcohol sales until mid-August as a result of a 15-day suspension handed down by the Milwaukee Common Council.

The council voted unanimously on Monday to suspend the liquor license for the business, 2643 W. Atkinson Ave., based on a six-item police report that detailed several drug deals, a shootout and several other incidents. The committee approved a food license renewal for the business at the same hearing.

The matter was discussed at length during a July 13 special meeting of the Licenses Committee, at which owner Nael Jabbar appeared with attorney Samantha Baker.

Members of the committee raised particular concerns over a March 6 shooting. According to the police report, a customer in the store was acting belligerent and was asked to leave. In response, the suspect displayed a firearm in his waistband. He exited the store, but later re-entered and fired two rounds at another customer, missing. The customer fired back and struck the suspect. The customer, suspect, security guard and clerk continued to exchange gunfire until the suspect stopped shooting. The three other parties held the suspect at gunpoint until police arrived on the scene. No charges were issued against any employees.

“None of these incidents are defendable,” said Alderman Mark Borkowski. “If you want to subject this committee to somehow defending each and every one of these items, I say bring it on. But I will also tell you that it’s insulting to all of us in this community. None of this behavior should be tolerated.”

Jabbar, who has managed the store for more than 20 years, told the committee that the family-owned business has been in operation since 1982, and is his main source of income.

The store maintains two armed security guards on-premise from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. The guards are trained to confront loiterers and call the police if they refuse to leave.

When prompted by Baker, Jabbar explained that calling the police is “protocol for anything that happens in or around the store,” including drug deals, overdoses and other situations that pose imminent danger.

“Every single time that I have gone to the store, I have had no issues with any employee of the store,” said Nicholas Kropp, one of five Milwaukee police officers who were subpoenaed to testify at the hearing. “The general area the store is located in is one of the most crime-plagued areas in our district,” he added, noting that he considers the store to be an asset for community members.

Four additional officers shared comments in support of the store and spoke favorably of employee cooperation with law enforcement.

A handful of community members also shared testimony — both in favor and against the store.

Vince Toney, who spoke in opposition, told the committee that many neighbors on the block are afraid to come outside due to illegal activity in the area.

Alderman Mark Chambers said he struggles to connect Toney’s testimony to the Hot Spot itself. “I guess where I’m confused is, are you really against renewing this license or are you just tired of the stuff that’s going on in the community?” he asked.

Toney, who has testified at four of the store’s license renewal hearings since 2015, replied that his main concern lies with the business’s ability to sell liquor. “We do think that the alcohol and the liquor has something to do with the behavior that goes on down there,” he said.

Another neighbor alleged that the store allows customers to use their QUEST cards to purchase beer, cigarettes and marijuana.

But Martha Freeman, a well-known neighborhood leader, disagreed. “I’m here to tell it like it really is,” said Freeman, who is better known as “Mama” throughout the Garden Homes neighborhood. “It’s not the alcohol that’s being sold there. It’s the drugs being sold around there.”

Freeman also noted that although she’s had to “get on” Jabbar to address issues in the past, he remains a positive presence in the community.

“He’s always helped, always. It’s that the people haven’t always been cooperative — they threaten him,” she said, adding that she’s had to take guns away from people attempting to take revenge on Jabbar for calling the police.

An additional five neighbors testified in support. Devlin Smith told the committee that she visits the store “quite often” and interacts with neighbors there, also adding that she’s noticed the owner is always willing to help out the community.

Alderwoman Andrea Pratt concluded the more than three hours of testimony with a suggestion for renewal with a 15-day suspension for the liquor license and immediate renewal of the food dealers license. The motion passed 4-1, with Borkowski in opposition.

The suspension went into effect at midnight on July 30 and will continue through midnight on Aug. 14. Hot Spot Supermarket will remain open as usual, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. The store is expected to resume alcohol sales starting Aug. 15.

An attempt to reach Jabbar for comment was unsuccessful.

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Categories: Food & Drink

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