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UPDATE: Business cited as a 'public nuisance,' now back open

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

UPDATE: For the last month the Westside Shop was boarded up, the District Attorney’s Office said it was a hot bed for criminal activity, after making changes the business is now back open.

Customers like Fred Appleberry are in and out again at a business that was once padlocked.

“I’m 55 years old, I don't have any way to Broad Street to food city to get a loaf of bread, this will help everybody out,” Appleberry said.

It’s a feeling many shoppers echoed for the store's first full day back open.

"To see my customers happy that they have a business to come to, shop, we have more stuff now. It’s like a new opening for us, a grand opening,” said Store Owner, Moe Saleh.

Earlier this month District Attorney General Neal Pinkston allowed the store to re-open on a temporary basis to get the store up to code.

The court order gave the owner 30 days to meet a list of 19 requirements and pass all city inspections.

On Monday the DA toured the business on grove street and gave the business the okay to re-open.

"We got it done, they city is happy and we're back in business,” Selah said.

Saleh tells Channel 3 they were able to make all the changes in two weeks.

The court order called for the business to make plans to provide fresh produce and meat, as well as hire security, among other things.

"Their job is to make sure no one is standing outside hanging out. It’s a place of business, you come, you get served and you leave,” Selah explained.
However, the cost of security isn't cheap. Saleh says he will spend about $4,000 a month to keep an eye on the property.

His customers are happy to see their close choice for groceries back open.

"I had to call a cab and it almost cost me 15 dollars, it doesn't make any sense… I would be glad to come down here and help pick up paper and help keep it clean because it would help out everyone in the community,” said Appleberry.

The Westside shop will meet with a judge in 90 days to update them on the progress.


PREVIOUS STORY: A store that District Attorney Neal Pinkston considers a hot bed for criminal activity can temporarily reopen. Wednesday, Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Tom Greenholtz approved an agreement between the Westside Shop and the DA.   

The court order allows the owner limited access to the property under the condition that they meet certain criteria and fix problems that don't meet city code.

Unsanitary conditions of the store, illegal activity, and fire code violations are just a few of the 19 reasons listed in a court order between the Mohamed ‘Moe’ Saleh, a co-owner and the DA.

"That's what they want me to do and that's what I’m going to do. I’m just glad business will reopen real soon and that's the only issue I had,” Saleh said.

If the owners fix those problems, the DA agreed to let them open back up for business.

"Hopefully, I’m trying not to wait 30 days. It’s some issues that need to be taken care of and I will do that the next few days and that's about it,” Saleh added.

Public records show police have responded to the area more than 200 times over a two-year span, which is higher than any other business around.

It's one of the last food options for residents living in that part of town and a concern for District 7 Councilman Erskine Oglesby.

"Becoming in compliant to reopen the store to provide products that are needed for the community in a safe environment and right now that's my one concern,” Oglesby said.

A condition of the order requires the owners to come up with a plan to provide meat, fruit and vegetable options to the city.

The store also has to meet all city and fire codes, and contract with a security guard or off-duty law enforcement officer when they're open for business.

The district attorney also met with the property owner and has worked out an agreement to use part of the space as a "police sub-station"

The agreement is for 30 days. The city will inspect the property prior to the next court date, which is scheduled June 12.


PREVIOUS UPDATE: A store that District Attorney Neal Pinkston considers a hot bed for criminal activity can temporarily reopen. Wednesday, Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Tom Greenholtz approved an agreement between the Westside Shop and the DA.

The court order allows the owner limited access to the property under the condition that they meet certain criteria and fix problems that don't meet city code.

The agreement is for 30 days. The city will inspect the property prior to the next court date which is scheduled June 12.


PREVIOUS STORY: The owners of the building that houses the Westside shop presented a deal to the District Attorney General Friday in hopes of re-opening the convenience store.

The D.A.'s office padlocked the Grove Street store on April 27, saying it was a hotbed of criminal activity.

On May 5, the owners of the building met with District Attorney General Neal Pinkston and offered to house substation for Chattanooga police rent free.

"They (the owners)  have volunteered to provide police with surveillance cameras and monitors and will even throw in a coffee pot," D.A.'s office spokeswoman Melydia Clewell says in a release. "The DA has made CPD and Mayor Berke aware of the offer and provided the contact information so the city can reach out to the owners."

A decision on if the store will re-open has not been made.

Stay with WRCBtv.com for updates to this story. 


PREVIOUS STORY: A popular convenience store in College Hill Courts was shut down after the District Attorney said it became hotbed of criminal activity. It might've been a trouble spot to some, but for others, it was the only option to buy food.

The District Attorney’s office said the business was a nuisance in the community and it's why they chained up the doors.

This is the message authorities put on the front doors of the Westside Shop. The doors will stay shut until the owners face a judge.

"I come up here and I'm like gosh, it was real shocking to me knowing that this is the main store that people always go to especially in this area,” said Cedric McKenzie.

The DA's office said the area has a "disproportionate amount of illegal activity." An investigation showed Chattanooga Police responded to the address more than 200 times for fights, drugs, robberies, shootings and other criminal activities. Police said the owners did not do enough to cut down on crime and at times did not cooperate with authorities. Now those living in the area have to find a new place to shop in a part of town that's already considered a food desert. "It's going to be a lot harder for them to get what they need."

While the DA's Office said it's a nuisance, others said it's unfair to those who weren't a part of the problem. "People who need food, who need paper towels, daily products are being hurt by an environment they didn't create,” said Kevin Muhammad.

Kevin Muhammad with People United for Change visits the Westside twice a month to provide fresh produce to those in need. He said with food options becoming more scarce, they plan to step up their services. "We need permanent solutions that will provide a good healthy food, that will facilitate in particular our children and elderly living a better quality of life."

The District Attorney’s Office said the Westside Shop had higher call volumes to police than other businesses in the area. A hearing with the owner is set for May 2nd.

Channel 3 reached out to the store owner, Salma Ambo for comment, but our calls haven't been returned yet.

The DA's Office said they are working with the social service providers that regularly supply food to Westside residents to make them aware of the situation.


PREVIOUS STORY: The Westside Shop on Grove Street is now padlocked.  

A Nuisance Abatement was filed against the property, property owner and the business owner by the Hamilton County District Attorney's Office Thursday. 

An investigation between January 2014 and April 2016 showed Chattanooga Police responded to the address more than 200 times for disorders, fights, drugs, robberies, shootings and other criminal activities. 

This is a higher call volume than other similar businesses. A hearing is set for May 2nd. 

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