Homelessness And Its Effects On Local Business

  • Thursday, July 21, 2022

I remember watching the news during 2020 and 2021 and seeing reports of local governments in Seattle, New York, and other progressive cities purchasing apartments and hotels to house their homeless population. While this may have started as a noble ideal, it was clear from the reports that such actions only worsened addiction problems and made the homeless population further dependent on inept government bureaucrats. Although concerned about those policies and their effects, I felt fortunate to live and own a business in Hamilton County where the thought of such would never become a reality.  

However, to little news coverage, the Chattanooga City Council purchased a hotel at 7725 Lee Hwy., on or about Oct. 26, 2021, for the purpose of housing Chattanooga’s homeless population.  While this will have little or no effect on most of the viewers of this opinion piece, it will have a major effect on those unlucky enough to live, work, or in my case, own a business nearby. 

I own the business which operates on a property immediately adjacent to this hotel at 7703 Lee Hwy. This business is Discount Liquor, which has been in business for nearly 40 years.  I have operated this location as its on-site manager for almost 20 years.  

In the summer of 2021, I began negotiations with the prior owner of the business to sell the property and business.  After years of hard work and savings, I saved enough to procure a loan to purchase the business for myself and my small family.  The local regulations required any new owners of the business to renew a Special Exceptions Permit to continue the sale of alcohol on the premises. I was assured by an assistant attorney for the city of Chattanooga that such would be a mere formality due to the length of time the business had been in operation.

Of course, our local bureaucrats and “leaders” had other plans. With no warning, news became public on or about Oct. 26, 2021 that the city of Chattanooga would be purchasing the adjacent property for the aforementioned purpose of housing our city’s homeless population.  When my Special Exceptions Permit application came up for vote on Jan. 11, it was tabled so that Councilwoman Carol Berz, who represents the district in which my store is located, could be present. The following week, with no public opposition present, Councilwoman Berz announced that the surrounding neighborhood was evolving and that the permit should be denied.

Our City Council, elected to represent the actual taxpaying constituency, denied my permit unanimously. Again, not a single member of the public was present to oppose the renewal of the permit required for me to operate my business. Further, at the time, the City Council approved the purchase of the hotel for its homeless re-homing project, my store was still operating under its prior ownership. The city simply took advantage of a loophole to deny me the right to do business, an action which may very well bankrupt my family and me.

I want to make it clear that I am not opposed to helping the homeless, mentally ill, and others who are suffering in our community. On the other hand, such action should not come at the detriment of the taxpaying citizens of this community. While I understand that some may be opposed to the sale of alcohol at all, the bigger picture is about government overreach. If this can happen to me in this moderately-sized city, please be assured it can happen to you, your business and your livelihood as well.  Whether you live and/or work in Sale Creek, Birchwood, Ooltewah, or the big city of Chattanooga itself, this is a reminder that our elections matter and that electing big government politicians in city and county government will eventually be to your detriment as well. 

I never imagined the horrors of New York City and Seattle would knock on my doorsteps in Chattanooga.  It has become abundantly clear to me that the horrors of big government exist throughout this country, regardless of where you may live.  Please educate yourself and vote so that you do not suffer the same demise.   

My fate now rests in the hand of a local judge to overturn this arbitrary and capricious decision issued by the City Council. I have measured hope in that effort, but am preparing for the worst. In the event the court rules against me, I may be forced to take up residence at the city’s new homeless hotel, which is what they want anyways. Power is the concern of any government, regardless of its size, and these nine oligarchs in Chattanooga have sure made that clear. 

Therefore, the entire purpose of this opinion is to advocate for the opening of a homeless encampment at 5708 Uptain Road, (Councilwoman Berz’s business address).  I am sure Councilwoman Berz would support that initiative. 

Mike Patel

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