Store Operators Along MLK Boulevard Say Drunks, Panhandlers Hurting Business

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Store operators along MLK Boulevard say drunks and panhandlers are hurting their business.

Pam Ladd, executive director of the Partnership, said customers are fearful to come to the agency's thrift store on MLK. She said the group depends on income from it and other sources to make up what is not covered by grants.

She stated, "The city has invested a lot of money in the MLK Neighborhood. It looks great. But we've got problems."

Ms. Ladd told members of the City Council that those who bother customers congregate on a bench in front of the store. She asked that the bench be removed.

She said police are quick to respond when called, but she asked that they make more frequent patrols in front of the stores.

Ms. Ladd said the thrift store was robbed a month ago. She said the clerk was not hurt, "but was scared to death."

She said the issues "are a daily occurrence. They are running away business that we desperately need."

Elisha Millan, who operates Grass Roots Health Boutique, said one particularly bothersome individual has been arrested 18 times over the past year. She said he was jailed last Friday, then again on Saturday - saying it is always for public intoxication.

She said the people involved "are not homeless" and are not those with mental health issues.

Ms. Millan said UTC students who try to go from the campus in the direction of MLK Boulevard "are asked for money and harassed every time."

She said when she tries to go out front and get individuals to move on "I am yelled at and verbally harassed."

She said the problem is driving customers from that location to a similar store she operates in Fort Oglethorpe. 

Ms. Millan said removing the bench "would help, but we need a more permanent solution."

Councilman Anthony Byrd said he is aware of the problem and has been looking into solutions.

He said one contributing factor is a nearby convenience store "unfortunately sells 99-cent beers."

He said he wanted to meet with Ms. Ladd and Ms. Millan, saying, "There are some things we are going to try."


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