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Nov 21

Brandy’s (You’re A Fine Store)

Comments (5) 11:00 AM posted by admin |

The Ypsilanti Citizen (virtually located in Ypsilanti for your convenience) recently ran a news article about the most recent Ypsilanti City Council meeting wherein about 25 people showed up in support of Brandy’s Liquor Store. You see, after five years of constant complaints as well as having the pleasure of being the number one party store in town for calls for police service, the City decided to do something about it.

Brandy’s Liquor Store has long been the bane of existence for some residents of Ypsilanti’s Midtown Neighborhood Association. Depending on who you talk to, they’ll tell you that drug dealing goes occurs all day long in the parking lot. They’ll tell you the place is dirty and strewn with trash. They’ll tell you that as the gateway to their neighborhood, it’s a detriment to the area.

Brandy’s Liquor Store has also been a life line to many residents on the other side of Michigan Avenue. At Tuesday’s Council meeting we heard testimony about how the owners will give people tabs when money is tight at the end of the month. We heard how respectful the owners are to their customers. We heard how the owners were doing everything they can possibly do keep the place safe but weren’t getting the cooperation necessary from the Ypsilanti Police Department.

At the end of the day, I don’t care so much about everyone’s perceptions as I care about Ypsilanti.

One of the most frustrating things about being on Council is that not only do people get all pissed off when we don’t act fast enough, it seems like some people get even more pissed off when we react at all. It’s part of the job, but we need to lead better.

The problems surrounding Brandy’s aren’t recent. According to the police, some of these issues have existed for over five years. If you read the most recent Council Information Letter, you’ll see the first seven pages of a ninety-three page nuisance complaint the City has filed against Brandy’s. There is a hearing schedule for mid-December to determine whether or not the store should be padlocked and closed as a result of the activity occuring there. The reason the entire brief was not included because it was too large for the City Attorney’s office to email (the Washtenaw County email system simply wouldn’t handle it). The brief includes some amazing claims, including:

  • On October 20th, 2008, Officer Joe Yuhas made an arrest of a suspect inside BRANDY’S for possession of crack cocaine.
  • The proprietors of BRANDY’S have allowed drug dealers to hide in the walk-in cooler to avoid police when the police arrive.
  • The proprietors of BRANDY’S maintain the “appearance” of video surveillance; however, the system is consistently either broken or positioned in a manner as to not deter narcotics activity at the premises.

I should make it crystal clear that as an Ypsilanti City Council member I am inclined to believe my police department and support them.

The calls for service to Brandy’s since January 1, 2007 have been significant as compared to other party stores in town.

  • 204 Brandy’s, 902 West Michigan Avenue
  • 77 Eagles Market, 501 West Cross Street
  • 70 Cal’s Party Store & Deli, 915 West Michigan Avenue
  • 53 Joe’s Market, 454 South Huron Street
  • 43 Tom’s Party Store, 500 West Cross Street
  • 34 Mike’s Party Store, 224 West Michigan Avenue

When building a nuisance case like this, everything is fair game. It shouldn’t come as any surprise, but the claims are obviously inflated because so much scrutiny is being placed on Brandy’s. The place has gained a reputation, and as a consequence, the police are watching it. I’d argue that’s what is supposed to happen. If you want to make progress, you need to attack the number one problem.

I may have been the one to throw a monkey wrench in the works when during Council proposed business I suggested the Human Relations Commission take a look at this concern. When the new Charter was adopted back in the day, it included the creation of a Human Relations Commission. In the past thirteen years, they have been underutilized. I felt that part of the problem was a lack of communication between two different sides of Michigan Avenue. I was hoping the HRC could help faciliate that missing communication. I wasn’t expecting what happened next.

We listened to the mob.

Twenty-five people poured out in support of Brandy’s Liquor Store and even though this issue has existed for the past five years, we decided to give the owners of Brandy’s sixty more days to clean up their act. I suggested continuing on a parallel path and go to court in December in order to begin to seriously resolve this issue. In the end, no one agreed with me and we went with the sixty day reprieve. I voted for the delay, but it gives me the option to bring this back for a new vote at the December 2nd meeting.

Oh, the December 2nd meeting.

If we were worried about a mob speaking in support of Brandy’s, what in the hell are we going to do when the entire Midtown Neighborhood Association shows up and speaks out against Brandy’s? It is a virtual lock that will happen. The day after the Council meeting the phone calls and emails were already beginning. We’re going to have competing mobs asking for two polar opposite outcomes.

We’ve set the precedent that we’ll let the mob rule.

What’s even more puzzling is that despite the amount of City staff time that was spent on preparing a ninety-three page complaint and scheduling a court hearing as well as the numerous meetings over the past two years, a sixty day stay was agreed to by the City Attorney, City Manager, Mayor, and Council without any resistance. The work won’t be lost because we won’t have to start over, but it makes you wonder why it was important enough to spend time and money on the first place if it wasn’t important enough to at least argue that the matter should continue to court. This was the third time this year the City Attorney put a lot of work into something only to brushed aside by Council. It makes you wonder if it wouldn’t be a good idea to consult Council before giving the City Attorney research practice, but I digress.

In the mean time, I would encourage everyone to stop in at Brandy’s Liquor Store and buy something and share your feelings one way or the other with the owners. Lack of communication has a lot to do with this issue not being resolved yet.

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  1. Comment by Midtown neighbor rant
    November 21, 2008 @ 12:57 pm

    As a neighbor of Brandy’s, I was appalled at the Council’s decision to delay another 60 days before taking action to resolve this mess. The first year after I moved into Midtown I shopped at Brandy’s on occasion. The appearance and character of the business (inside and outside) was so far below even my most basic expectations of how a party store should operate that I decided it was not the place to spend my money.

    This was before I became aware of just how much this business was contributing to criminal activity and blight in my neighborhood.

    The City Council had no business taking any action on this issue after only hearing from the owner. There’s no rush – tell the gentleman and his supporters “thank you” and “we will check into this and put it on the agenda for follow up at our next meeting.” That way the Council avoids the embarrassment of acting precipitously on less than full information.

    Having finished my rant, I have to make sure to also say that I am grateful for the police department and city attorney’s efforts to resolve the problems with this business. It’s long past time to move this along.

  2. Comment by Kristen Cuhran
    November 24, 2008 @ 2:17 pm

    I just wanted to comment that I take offense with the use of the word “mob” to describe Brandy’s supporters and midtown neighbors.

    According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary:
    > Main Entry: mob
    > 1: a large or disorderly crowd ; especially : one bent on riotous or
    > destructive action
    > 2: the lower classes of a community : masses , rabble
    > 3:chiefly Australian : a flock, drove, or herd of animals
    > 4: a criminal set : gang ; especially often capitalized : mafia 1
    > 5:chiefly British : a group of people : crowd

    I think that people coming to the support or aide of something they believe in is part of our patriotic duty as citizens in this country.

    Labeling people in our community practicing that duty as “mobs” demeans the purpose of government and, to me, calls in to question what you think your role on city council is.

    All of these people are your constituents and City Council members should be willing to hear from them.

  3. Comment by Guitar Player Man
    December 1, 2008 @ 9:47 pm


    Take a chill pill. The pattern is conspicuously ridiculous. Whenever city council tries to actually accomplish something, some particular constituency that hardly ever expresses an interest in their local gov’t or otherwise participates in their local gov’t shows up in numbers to try to impress their elected officials by bitching and moaning how they weren’t consulted and how unfair this all is.

    The pathetic thing is that it works every time.

  4. Comment by Guitar Hero in my Mind
    December 6, 2008 @ 10:48 pm

    Local politics is messy. Life is messy. Your room is probably messy, Guitar Player Man. Get over it. Two mobs don’t make a right, after all.

  5. Comment by Guitar Player Man
    December 14, 2008 @ 8:43 pm

    Nope, the room is quite clean. It’s an OCD thing. The same kind of OCD that helped me nail multi-finger tapping techniques ala Brad Gillis and Eddie Van Halen back when I was in high school.

    My point is that a competent city council would have gathered the information necessary to listen to input, deliberate, and make a decision at the time the item was on the agenda.

    Whether Brandy’s is a nuisance or not has nothing at all to do with the number of people who show up at a council meeting and complain. For councilmembers to have so little information that they are swayed back and forth by whatever group has put their beer down long enough to show up at a meeting bespeaks a certain lack of confidence in the information they were originally provided and the information they gathered themselves.

    Either the council thinks Brandy’s is a nuisance, or it doesn’t. If council thinks it is, they ought to continue the proceedings. If there isn’t enough information to reach that conclusion, then why are we paying the city attorney to pursue proceedings? It would seem if the feeling is the proof isn’t there, there oughtn’t be any proceedings at all.

    It’s time to go or get off the pot. Having it hang in limbo doesn’t serve anyone’s interests. It just makes council look like it doesn’t know what it’s doing.

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