In September, Jignesh "Jiggy" Sheth first went before the Colorado Springs Liquor and Beer Licensing Board to get permission to expand his west side Smoker King shop. As we reported earlier this month, he was denied.
Those who had opposed Sheth's application pointed to concerns over allowing another liquor store open in the neighborhood, citing the fact that only one block away on Uintah next to King Soopers is the well-established Queen Liquor.
Queen Liquor's owner, Glenn Schultz, was in fact one of the more outspoken opponents of the application. Sheth's opposition stated that they were concerned that he hadn't proven to the board that he was of the correct moral character to sell liquor.
Sheth, in turn, filed a lawsuit, arguing that he was more than qualified under Colorado law to operate a liquor store, that there was no legitimate challenge to his moral standing. More pointedly, Sheth noted in his suit's allegations that Schultz's daughter, Kit Abrams, was not only a co-owner of Queen Liquor, and therefore a likely competitor for Sheth, but that she was also a member of the board that denied his license.
Last week, Abrams resigned from the board, citing "personal reasons." And today — despite Abrams speaking against Sheth's re-application on the grounds that he was of "questionable moral character" — the board approved Sheth's application in a 6 to 1 vote.
In her comments, Abrams pointed to a survey that found nearly 400 people in the neighborhood supported Sheth's expansion, and alleged that she had heard from patrons that Sheth had used bribery to win this support. "My understanding from some patrons — and I understand that this is hearsay, but hearsay is admissible — that when people entered Smoker King, that they were asked if they'd like to sign the petition if they wanted cheaper prices," claimed Abrams. "Cheaper prices to me is demonstrating some inappropriate influence."
Sheth flatly denied any efforts to sway the petition. And, as board member Dawn Lloyd pointed out, the petition was conducted by an independent, third party. "I don't believe that the applicant could have influenced people, as there was a surveyor that went door-to-door ... at least that was the way it was presented to us."
Another opponent who spoke this morning is Jaswinder Grewal, the owner of the nearest 7-Eleven.
Grewal pointed out that Sheth and his staff wear holstered guns, a threat of violence as a deterrent to crime which he considered too extreme. "I think that that is threatening people, that if you steal something that I have a gun. I don't think that it is a good moral character to keep a gun just to show people that I can shoot them."
Board member Randy Kouba, however, pointed out that in Colorado Springs open carry is lawful. Kouba said that he found it hard to see how someone behaving in a lawful manner could be illustrative of a bad moral character.
Sheth says that he is allowed by law to carry a gun, that he wants to carry a gun, and that he has no plan to stop. He testified this morning that he has never been arrested and has no criminal record.
After the meeting, Sheth was busy discussing his next steps with his attorney. He has to drop off papers with the county clerk's office, and get the ball rolling on the physical expansion — tearing down a wall and buying and installing coolers. But he told us that he will be open for business early next year.