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Prattville church’s efforts help halt liquor storecomment (0)

April 2, 2009

By Grace Thornton

Bryan Easley said the Lord allowed a little birdie to come to his church recently — a little birdie that told him and the rest of East Memorial Baptist Church, Prattville, that a liquor store was going to be built on their street.

So Easley, minister of administration for the Autauga Baptist Association church, did some calling around. He called the City Council, planning commission and Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board.

And Easley found out the rumor was true. “It was pretty much a done deal,” he said, noting that the store had been in the works for seven months and the ABC Board just needed the governor’s signature on the lease in order to move forward with the building.

But God’s timing was in all of it — starting with that little birdie, Easley said.

The church didn’t call the media. It simply published a flier and handed it out to members of the congregation and families and employees of its day care and school, East Memorial Christian Academy.

“Within just a few days, the issue began to be stirred up a little bit,” Easley said.

The two-lane road that the store would be on is the only entrance to the church, the school and some large subdivisions.

But the issue wasn’t traffic, Easley said. “None of us wanted to drive by a liquor store on our way to church and school and home.”

Prattville already has one ABC store, but it is downtown tucked into a shopping center on a four-lane road, he said.

“There was just no need for it to be there (on Old Ridge Road near the church),” Easley said of the proposed liquor store. “People didn’t want one. If you can show me where a liquor store has increased property values, I’ve got some beachfront property in Arkansas for you.”

The fliers went out, word spread and people began to call.

“The next thing we knew, the governor’s office had gotten calls, and our council people got hundreds of calls,” Easley said, adding that Rep. H. Mac Gipson Jr., R-Prattville, and Sen. Wendell Mitchell, D-Luverne, went to bat for the cause, too.

And the next thing everybody knew, the new liquor store was no more.

“We like to go where we’re wanted,” said Emory Folmar, administrator for the ABC Board, according to the Prattville Progress.

According to Easley, the paperwork on the project was pulled and the governor decided not to sign the lease.

“We only had one person call the church to complain (about the fact that we were protesting),” he said, noting that the caller, a man who lives nearby, said the proposed store would be more convenient for him than one in another part of Prattville.

Members of East Memorial Baptist, which is led by Pastor Glenn Graham, are thrilled the liquor store issue “is all done for now,” Easley said.

But they remain concerned about the fact that no public hearing or other notification to the community was necessary for the ABC Board to decide to locate a store there. If it hadn’t been for the “little birdie,” then the church wouldn’t have known to fight the issue until the building was being constructed and plans were more concrete, Easley said.

“It would have been much more difficult then,” he said.

Folmar confirmed that no laws require the ABC Board to go before the public before placing a store.

“There’s not any use in doing that. [The plans for the store had] been seven months in the mill. This wasn’t done in the dark of night,” he said, according to the Progress.

Easley said Gipson is working on legislation that would require such a public hearing.

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