Dayton says dollar stores need to be better neighbors

The city of Dayton has formally objected to a liquor license application submitted by the Dollar General at 3119 E. Third St. The city took the action after citizens complained. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF
The city of Dayton has formally objected to a liquor license application submitted by the Dollar General at 3119 E. Third St. The city took the action after citizens complained. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

City wants stores to improve the safety, security and cleanliness of their properties.

The city of Dayton has objected to a liquor license application from a Dollar General on East Third Street, which is the city’s latest attempt to block alcohol sales at “dollar store” chains it claims have a history and reputation of being bad neighbors.

The city has turned up the heat on some dollar stores to try to get them to improve the safety, security and cleanliness of their properties, city officials say.

The city is in negotiations with Family Dollar’s corporate representatives to try to get local stores to clean up their act, officials say, and the city will oppose liquor permit requests from dollar stores that cause problems for neighborhoods.

“If these are an issue in your community, the city needs to know that, because we’re not on the ground,” said Martin Gehres, Dayton assistant city attorney. “We can look at statistics and data and everything, but nothing beats someone living directly next to it and having to experience to these problems.”

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On Wednesday, the Dayton City Commission approved a resolution objecting to a state liquor permit application submitted by the company that owns the General Dollar at 3119 E. Third St.

The Third Street site used to be home to Food for Less, but the grocery store burned down more than two years ago.

Community members contacted the city and expressed concerns about alcohol sales at the new Dollar General, according to a memo from Barbara Doseck, Dayton city attorney.

Residents worry that booze sales at the store would interfere with public decency, sobriety, peace and good order to the neighborhood, the memo states.

The Dollar General already has generated some controversy, because some community members claim it is a poor replacement for a full-service grocery store.

Critics said that area is a food desert and a Dollar General does not sell the kind of fresh and healthy foods that neighbors and families really need.

Gehres said that area of Third Street has had a significant number of police calls and health and public safety concerns.

“It’s not necessarily that location, it’s the entire corridor,” he said.

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The Dollar General is opening less than a half mile from a Family Dollar store at 2601 E. Third St.

A couple of years ago, the city objected to the liquor permit application of that Family Dollar store, and the Ohio Division of Liquor Control sustained the objection, denying the permit.

The city originally objected to six permits from Family Dollar, but the state decided to approve five.

Later, the city persuaded the Ohio Liquor Control Commission to deny liquor permit requests for two Family Dollar stores, at 645 Troy St. and 1130 N. Main St.

The city, along with the city of Cincinnati, is now in negotiations with Family Dollar’s corporate counsel to try and address problems at local stores, Gehres said.

There’s been complaints about trash, parking lot maintenance and unwanted or criminal activities at some stores, he said.

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The city is working on an agreement to increase the number of security cameras at stores in the city and how frequently workers clean up the properties, he said.

“The city wants them to become better partners with the community and the neighborhoods,” Gehres said.

Requests for comment to Family Dollar and parent company, Dollar Tree, were not immediately returned Wednesday.

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said the city is pleased to make some progress with Family Dollar to improve its store conditions and operations because there have been issues with crime in and around dollar stores.

She said dollar stores need to treat the communities they serve better.

“We want any business in the community to be an addition and not a detraction,” she said.

She said the city is prepared to take steps, possibly including legal action, against dollar stores that harm neighborhoods.

She said she’s hopeful an agreement will be reached that is agreeable to both sides but that has “teeth” in case promises aren’t kept.