CORONA — The State Liquor Authority iced a liquor store’s plan to set up shop between two churches in Corona — in violation of state law — after congregants, church officials and local pols raised a furor.
Under the law, liquor stores and bars must be at least 200 feet from churches and schools, but Bao Liquors was looking to open up on 97th Street and Northern Boulevard, a block that is home to four houses of worship.
The application for the store, which moved from its former location at 98th Street, has now been put on hold as the SLA conducts an investigation.
The store sits directly between two churches — the Iglesia Biblica Cristiana and the Levantado Hombres de Valor, which have been open for years — and is on the same block as the Iglesia Adventista Hispana and the Pentecostal Church of Christ.
The store, a former bodega that has not yet opened, immediately drew fire from regular churchgoers when a sign went up last week indicating the shop was becoming a liquor store.
"The church is to bring people to the light…not to a place where there is drink next door," said Libia Agrera, 75, who has attended Spanish-language services regularly for the last 13 years at the Iglesia Biblica Cristiana.
With over 75 regular worshipers each day, according to the church, Agrera was not alone in her anger.
"A few members of the church have had problems with alcohol in the past," said fellow churchgoer Joel Feliz, 23. "They’ve left that behind and [have] come to the church…and then they see this," he said, pointing to the sign on the store.
The Rev. Robert Amaros, Iglesia Biblica Cristiana’s 45-year-old pastor, raised a red flag about the liquor store at a community meeting with police Tuesday.
His complaints, in addition to objections raised by the Church of Christ, which has been on the same block since 1968, prompted Community Board 3 and Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras to look into the store.
"This is definitely not a normal situation," said CB 3 Chairwoman Marta Lebreton. "We will look into the matter."
Applications for liquor stores are submitted directly to the SLA as opposed to applications for bars and restaurants, which are routed through the community board.
For the churchgoers, the authorities answered their prayers almost immediately.
"The license is on hold until we conduct an investigation [into the matter]," SLA spokesman Bill Crowley said Wednesday. "The law specifically states that a store can’t be within 200 feet of a church."
The matter, however, is far from closed, according to churchgoers, who promised to bring it up at Thursday’s community board meeting.
"No liquor store is supposed to be that close to a church," said Mary Robinson, 55, whose father, the Rev. Joseph Robinson, preaches at the Church of Christ.
"It’s inappropriate and insensitive to people who pray at the churches up and down Northern Boulevard," she said.
Bao Liquors' management could not be reached for comment.