On Monday the Perry City Council denied a liquor license renewal application for the Dollar General store at 705 First Ave. due to violations of the city fire code — blocked aisles and blocked emergency exits — observed by Perry Volunteer Fire Department Chief Chris Hinds, who recommended that the council deny the renewal request.
Hinds said this was the first time he has not recommended renewing a liquor license.
“In the case of 99% of our businesses around Perry, it’s pretty much a formality,” he said. “In the case of the Dollar General, we have been battling an issue there for some time. My first involvement was in mid to late November. The police department received a complaint about aisles and fire exits being blocked, so I went down there, went through the store, looked things over.”
Hinds said he spoke in November to the store manager, who assured him she would see to it that the aisles and exits would soon be cleared.
“A few days later, we got another call on it,” Hinds said. “Assistant Chief (Brian) Eiteman went down and visited with her and, of course, she gave him basically the same story that I had gotten. I think Brian has talked to them at least twice. The police department has received numerous calls. City hall has received numerous calls up there. I think the city clerk was really getting tired of receiving calls about it. I have received calls here at the fire station about this. I’ve been down there I don’t know how many times, but I don’t think I’ve talked to the manager herself since November.”
An Oct. 17 complaint posted on the Perry Iowa Community Page on Facebook elicited more than 100 responses and might have prompted the calls to city officials. Many comments on Facebook noted the untidy and overloaded conditions inside the low-cost variety store, which is a popular spot for Perry consumers.
It is unclear how quickly the loss of a liquor license takes effect. On Wednesday of this week, the Dollar General’s beer cooler was still chilling and fully stock, and the store manager said she was not aware of any fire-code violations or actions over the liquor license.
“I haven’t heard anything,” the manager said. “Nobody has come and talked to me about anything.” She said beer sales are not a large part of the store’s revenues.
By Friday both the beer and the cooler that held it were gone, but room-temperature beverages were still available on shelves and in carts. A sign on the front door said the store would be closed for remodeling from Sunday to Thursday next week.
“I don’t where it’s coming from,” the manager said of the October complaints seen on social media. “I have no idea.”
On Wednesday the status of the store’s license on the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division website indicated the March 1 renewal application had been “denied by local authority.”
Hinds said the store’s rear emergency exit was still blocked the last time he checked.
“I was in there the other day,” he said, “and basically every aisle in the store was clear but if you got to the west end of the store, the back aisle’s absolutely completely blocked. So if you went down any aisle to get to the exit, when you got to the back of the store, you couldn’t get across the back of the store to get to the exit.”
Hinds said he likes the Dollar General store but wishes they would clean up their act.
“There’s a definite need for the store in town,” he said, “but it’s such a mess 99% of the time when you go in there because you can’t get up and down the aisles, and there’s stuff laying on the floor that is actually slip and trip hazards. It’s clothing that’s come off of hangars or stuff that’s been spilled off the shelves that you’re walking on or stepping on that you can slip on or trip on or whatever. It’s those hazards along with the fact that the fire exits are blocked and the aisles are blocked. That’s what we’ve based this on.”