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Regulators Shut Down Skid Row Liquor Store Linked to Drug Sales

January 05, 2006|Richard Winton | Times Staff Writer

State regulators on Wednesday shut down a Los Angeles skid row liquor store whose owner was arrested in a sting operation last fall on suspicion of buying stolen alcohol and cigarettes to resell to his customers.

The closure of Jack's Market, which authorities described as a magnet for narcotics sales, is part of a larger effort by state and local authorities to clean up skid row, a long-neglected downtown area notorious for its large homeless population, public intoxication and open-air drug bazaars.

"This was a place where people constantly sold dope outside and even stashed it inside when officers came," Los Angeles Police Department Capt. Andrew Smith said. "The employers were seemingly aware of what was going on outside and inside the store. They looked the other way."

Authorities in recent weeks have opened an investigation into dumping by hospitals of homeless patients on skid row and conducted a mass arrest of outsiders, including Hollywood actor Brad Renfro, who allegedly came into the neighborhood to buy drugs.

Community activists cheered, and a few visibly intoxicated people lolling on the sidewalk uttered expletives, as state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control officials Wednesday slapped a notice permanently revoking its liquor license onto Jack's brick walls.

A single-story building with barred windows, the market at 521 E. 5th St. at San Pedro Street sits in the shadow of several of the largest downtown missions and detoxification facilities.

"I think this is historic," said Charles Porter, coordinator for the United East Coalition Prevention Project, a community-based drug prevention program. "It is a location we have been working to clean up for nearly a decade .... it was a dangerous place to pass by."

Porter noted that the neighborhood includes many children.

At a news conference, Alcoholic Beverage Control Director Jerry Jolly said the Sept. 8 arrests of storeowner Chisak Oh, 52, and employees Dong Lee and Clever Sim, both 24, were the legal basis for the shutdown.

Oh has entered a not-guilty plea to a felony charge of attempting to receive stolen property, said Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.

Gibbons said Lee pleaded no contest to one count of attempting to receive stolen property and was sentenced to three years probation and 30 days of community service. Sheriff's Department records indicated that federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials had stepped into Sim's case.

The sting purchase was the latest in a series of violations, including sales to minors and drunks, since Oh began operating the market in 2002, officials said.

"We slammed the door shut on this place that did about everything it could to violate the law and we are going after other liquor stores in this neighborhood," said LAPD Vice Division Capt. Kris Pitcher, whose unit helped Alcoholic Beverage Control identify problem locations.

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