Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced Monday that the city will not be giving interest-free loans to 23 liquor stores damaged during the rioting following the death of Freddie Gray in April because they do not conform to a zoning ban on alcohol sales in residential areas.
City officials have been trying to close liquor stores in residential neighborhoods for several years, the Baltimore Sun reports, and those stores that want city assistance are being asked to either stop selling alcohol or relocate. Rawlings-Blake said she has "a great amount of sympathy" for the stores that were damaged, but "with all the grants and the loan programs that we have available, we have a unique opportunity for these nonconforming liquor stores to convert into uses that can uplift our community."
Out of the 400 or so businesses that were damaged in the riots, 40 were liquor stores. Councilwoman Sharon Green Middleton said during an event Monday that it's not in the public's interest to have too many liquor stores in one area. "Crime and grime is around liquor stores," she said. "So if they're not going to work with the community, and change, they need to go." Although Baltimore has enacted these rules with its loans, the state is offering interest-free recovery loans of up to $35,000 without such restrictions.
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