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Public hearings held on local liquor licenses

By Grace Lovins

After approving the liquor license renewals of most of the Birmingham’s restaurants at the end of February, the city commission held a public hearing for four establishments found in violation of the city’s liquor code or the special land use permit conditions, approving the renewal of three businesses.

In February, Birmingham police chief Scott Grewe informed the commission that some of the establishments were caught selling alcohol to a minor that had been working with the department. These establishments were issued citations and informed they needed to take corrective action. A public hearing was set at the meeting to hear comments from the businesses.

At the meeting on Monday, March 27, Kelly Allen, representing Papa Joe’s Bistro and Whole Foods, stated that both establishments provided additional training for their staff members to prevent the issue from reoccurring. Allen also explained that the employee from Whole Foods who sold the liquor was terminated on the spot per the company’s policy.

Whole Foods and Allen also made the commission aware that they intend to relinquish their special land use permit. According to Allen, Whole Foods will no longer allow for the consumption of alcohol within the store since “they can’t position it within the store because of the ecommerce merger with Amazon.” They are still asking for the license to be renewed since construction plans have not gone through to the planning department yet, but the license will be put into escrow.

The decision to renew Whole Foods’ license was postponed to the following meeting so the business has times to finalize construction plans and submit them for preliminary review.

Allen explained that the incident at Papa Joe’s occurred in the store, not the actual bistro, and the employee who sold the liquor completely blew off the store’s procedures for alcohol sale. Papa Joe’s scheduled additional training for employees and provided a written letter proving the training was held. Commissioners voted 7-0 to approve the renewal of Papa Joe’s liquor license.

Casa Pernoi and Toast, said planning director Nick Dupuis, were found in violation of their special land use permit agreement. When city staff visited Toast to take a seat count, they had an additional 29 seats. Allen said they believed the restaurant was only over 10 seats, however Toast has surpassed the seat count for the past three years, which, according to Commissioner Andrew Haig, indicates a pattern of behavior.

“When somebody breaks the rules, it’s not us that broke them. We break the rules if we don’t follow them. My concern right now is the 65 seats, which was also in the December 13, 2021, package with a copy signed by the single owner it says very clearly 65 indoor seats, 52 outdoor seats – pattern of behavior; three times failed on exactly this,” Haig said.

Toast’s owner, manager and another staff member were present and offered that they wouldn’t let the issue happen again and it was a mistake. Allen, the manager and staff member also mentioned the counting method could be off and weren’t sure how many seats a booth, for instance, may count for. Allen also said the restaurant will be removing all excess chairs from the building so the situation doesn’t repeat itself.

Commissioners voted 6-1, with Brad Host voting against the motion, to approve the liquor license renewal. Allen and Toast will have to provide the commission with a written understanding of the city’s liquor code and compliance with the approved site plans.

Prior to the vote on Toast, commissioners voted 7-0 to approve Casa Pernoi’s liquor license renewal.


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