On Broadway, gas station still fueling controversy
LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - It was a first-of-its-kind punishment in Louisville: a for-profit business forced by the city to shut down.
The BP gas station on East Broadway was declared a public nuisance after three police incidents in 12 months -- drinking in the parking lot, selling marijuana in the lot and a customer shot by a store clerk.
When it comes to Louisville’s nuisance ordinance, it’s three strikes and you’re out. But seven months later, the gas station is still at bat on the corner of Broadway and Hancock, and at 6th and Jefferson in District Court, where the store owners are challenging the city’s move.
"The Shell station at First and Jefferson has had riots,” said Nader George Shunnarah, an attorney for the station owners. “Got a Thornton’s at 1st and Broadway that’s had criminal acts by third parties, and you don’t see an order to vacate. We had a shooting at a Kroger on Hurstbourne, and you don’t see an order to vacate. So why are they specifically picking on my clients? That’s the issue.”
At the hearing last June, BP’s owners said they planned to hire security.
LMPD’s crime tracker shows only seven criminal charges filed there over the past six months on things like shoplifting, fraud and drug possession.
Have things changed? WAVE 3 News spent several days secretly watching and recording.
WAVE 3 News never saw a security officer. Nobody chased away the people loitering in the lot for an hour or more. Many of them were drinking alcohol, which is interesting because the BP no longer sells alcohol. But the place across the street does.
Some people were spending long periods of time there who appeared to be trying to sell drugs, sorting drugs in plastic bags, and packing blunts in the lot.
There were money exchanges in what appeared to be hand-to-hand transactions.
A group of men appeared to be smoking and passing a joint around right in front of the entranceway to the store.
It appeared to be a popular spot for prostitution with the same woman working the same spot over multiple days.
And sometimes the lot was used as a public restroom.
Police didn’t know WAVE 3 News was there either. They patrolled there often. LMPD said it has received hundreds of calls to this BP location, costing taxpayers more than $100,000. The business owner’s attorney said what WAVE 3 News videotaped is the responsibility of the police, not his client.
“I think a business owner has a responsibility; if he knows someone is committing a crime, I think he needs to call the police,” Shunnarah said. “I think it’s the police responsibility to deal with crime in the community. You can’t just designate a private business to take that responsibility.”
So now the BP’s owners are in court, contending under state law and Jefferson County ordinance that a business can’t be declared a nuisance based on criminal acts by others.
The Jefferson County Attorney’s Office declined WAVE 3 News' request for an interview, sending a two-sentence statement indicating “underlying state and local Alcoholic Beverage Control decisions are pending” and “There have been no alcohol sales at the property since November.”
So the store remains open on appeal with owners raising the question: Does the order to vacate only apply to owners who aren’t there anymore, or does it apply to the property no matter who’s running the store?
Copyright 2019 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.