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New package store approved in Flowery Branch
Flowery Branch approved a liquor license for the owner of Express Food Mart, which is part of the Pure Gas center at 6168 Gaines Ferry Road.

A liquor license was OK’d by Flowery Branch City Council Thursday night for the owner of a newly annexed strip shopping center.

Mohammed Arif was seeking the license for the center, anchored by Express Food Mart, at 6168 Gaines Ferry Road.

The decades-old center, which also features a pizza shop and hair salon and has two vacant shops, is across from Hall County Fire Station 8 and is just east of McEver Road.

“This suite has never had an alcoholic beverage license,” states a city document concerning Arif’s request.

Arif “does own other businesses with alcoholic beverage licenses in Buford and Gillsville and has recently been approved by (Flowery Branch City) Council for a beer and wine license at the … gas station.”

Earlier this year, the council approved annexing the property and rezoning it from Hall County suburban shopping to Flowery Branch highway business. At the time, Arif said he was seeking the actions as part of hopes to connect to city sewer.

City Clerk Melissa McCain told the council that Arif has spent nearly $87,000 on improvements to the property and is connected to city sewer.

Arif has asked for a small one-time relief from the full package store fee.

“With the timing of this application … he’ll have two months of the use of the license prior to us asking for $6,400 for next year’s license, which is due Dec. 1,” she said. “He is asking if the council will pro rata (this year’s) fees.”

Council agreed to giving him relief but couldn’t do it under current city law, which doesn’t allow for pro rata fees.

“You have got to follow your law now, but that does not mean you can’t adjust your law and make it retroactive (to give Arif relief),” City Manager Ron Bennett said.

The South Hall city currently has two package stores — one on Hog Mountain Road near Spout Springs Road and the other on McEver Road off Jim Crow Road.

In 2014, when the alcoholic beverage code was updated, the city removed the limit on the number of package stores allowed in the city, according to the document.

“Staff is currently considering restricting package stores to certain zoning districts, but at this time, there is no restriction,” according to the document.