The Gainesville City Council on Thursday upheld a decision by the city’s Municipal Court to deny the owners of a Shell station on Monroe Drive a license to sell alcohol.
Hee K. Lee, owner of a convenience store at 2580 Monroe Drive, asked the council to reconsider a decision to deny her the privilege to sell alcohol at her store simply because her husband had run the business incorrectly.
Lee’s husband, Sung Lee, was given a license to sell packaged beer at the store in September 2006. In March the following year, the city and the Department of Revenue cited the store in connection to selling alcohol to a minor.
At the time, the license was suspended for three days. Two times after that — once in December 2008 and another time in October 2009 — the store was cited for selling alcohol to a minor, and received other punishments.
After the third citation, City Marshal Debbie Jones said she served Sung Lee with a notice that he would have to attend an administrative hearing to determine the status of his license.
Jones said Sung Lee’s license was not renewed in 2010 because he withdrew his application for the permit.
In meetings in December, Sung Lee told Jones he would have his wife apply for the permit, Jones said.
“I said, ‘Well, that’ll be fine, but this is going to be a surrogate situation where you’re having her apply because you won’t qualify,’” Jones said. “So we discussed that briefly, and then his final remark was ‘Well, then we’ll just get a divorce.’”
After filing for divorce in Gwinnett County on Dec. 28, Hee Lee applied for a license in her name on Jan. 21.
Jones recommended denial for that application. She said Hee Lee’s application had incorrect information — financial disclosures were not filled out with the correct information, and Lee said the business had never had any citations for improperly selling alcohol — and contended that Hee Lee would just be a surrogate license holder for her husband.
Sung Lee still helps Hee Lee run the business by acquiring merchandise, Hee Lee said, and their divorce is not yet final, according to Jones.
Through a translator, Hee Lee said she never lied on her application — only that she didn’t understand the questions written in English on the application. Lee is Korean.
“I did go to a (city employee) twice to ask her how to answer the questions twice,” Lee said. “But I was not given a full explanation, a clear explanation.”
Hee Lee said she had not been part of the business while her husband was in charge. Instead, she said, she was at home taking care of the couple’s children.
She said the couple’s main problem in the past was that they did not understand how to carry out the license requirements. She said that, previously, the couple would check the identification of people who looked like they were younger than 40.
“Our big mistake was that we were not used to gauging the age of non-Koreans,” Lee said.
Hee Lee said she and her husband were divorcing partly because of the financial strain the Monroe Drive business had placed on their relationship. Sung Lee attended the hearing, but Hee Lee did not allow him to speak as a witness.
On her own, Hee Lee said she had learned her lesson, and would require all alcohol purchasers to show their identification.
With fewer than 20 minutes of consideration, the council chose to deny Hee Lee’s request.