Port Arthur outlines provisions regarding proximity of stores with liquor to schools

Published 12:32 am Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Coming on the heels of weeks of contention among residents, the City of Port Arthur on Tuesday outlined the stipulations of businesses that sell alcohol and their proximity to schools and churches.

The discussion happened during a public hearing following a request to grant a Specific Use Permit for a 11.820 acre plot of land on 1645 Jefferson Drive.

The shopping center, Gulfway Plaza, currently houses a daiquiri store and smoke shop with a sign for a cigar lounge that says “coming soon.”

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“I don’t live close to the property, but I’m concerned about the kids,” said Gloria Sanchez, who spoke as a resident during the hearing.

Sanchez pointed out the proximity of the location to Thomas Jefferson Middle School and the Wheatley School of Early Childhood Programs.

“If we see the news lately, most of the news are young people and I really don’t think this is a good place (for such a business). And I’d really appreciate it if you can do something to stop it,” Sanchez said.

Port Arthur residents have taken to social media in recent weeks following the addition of a liquor store to the shopping center near Jefferson Middle School.

That parking lot was the scene of a crime Feb. 10 when two Jefferson Middle School students were shot during a physical altercation after school. Jose Cortez, 17, was arrested later that day and charged with two counts of aggravated assault. Cortez, officials with the Port Arthur Independent School District said, is not a student of PAISD, and was not one of the people involved in the fight.

Tuesday during the hearing, council members also asked questions to clarify the proximity of a business utilizing a liquor license to those nearby.

“I believe if I am not mistaken — and maybe the city secretary can help me on this — but when we are measuring and giving permits for lounges or individuals that will have alcohol connected to it, I believe the law calls for 300 feet from the front door of the school to the place that is located for the lounge,” said Mayor Pro Tem Donald Frank.

Assistant City Manager Pamela Langford said the city ordinance calls for 300 feet from property line to property line when dealing with schools, and 300 feet from door to door with churches and hospitals.

“Everything was done according to state law and local ordinance,” Langford said.

The multi-tenant shopping center was first approved by council in 2018 following recommendation from the Port Arthur Economic Development Corporation, according to city records.