NEW PORT RICHEY — The City Council has tightened up its rules governing convenience stores so it could include a business in the heart of New Port Richey that police say has been drawing complaints from residents.
On Tuesday, council members voted unanimously to change the city's ordinance mandating security requirements at all overnight convenience stores in the city. That now includes the Main Street Food Mart.
The ordinance previously required certain security measures for stores that derive at least 50 percent of their gross sales from gasoline. But the food mart doesn't sell gas, so it was exempt. The amendment now extends the safety requirements to stores that are open overnight but don't sell gas.
New Port Richey police Chief James Steffens who sought the change, said a growing number of young people began gathering in the area around the Food Mart, including suspected gang members.
Steffens said the change will not only protect store employees, but also police officers responding to calls for service, which occur almost daily at Main Street Food Mart.
"We're ready to roll," he said of his plans for enforcement of the change.
The ordinance requires convenience stores to have "window signage that allows a clear and unobstructed view from outside the building and in a normal line of sight of the cash register and sales transaction area."
Also, stores must have security cameras, a drop safe, lighting standards and a "conspicuous sign" in front that states the cash register contains less than $50, according to the ordinance.
Steffens said Wednesday code enforcement began seeking compliance with the new ordinance. It will be coupled with a continued increased police presence at Main Street Food Mart, as well as at a bus stop on a corner adjacent to the store that has been a spot where youths have been loitering around the clock, Steffens said.
On Tuesday, council members praised the change. Among them was Bob Langford, who said he has seen a marked reduction in loitering at the bus stop near the store since the recent increased police presence in the area.
Other council members didn't name Main Street Food Mart specifically, but referenced trouble at a local business, with hopes that problems will be curtailed by the ordinance change.
"I hate that place," said council member Ginny Miller.
Food Mart manager Vinny Kandi said the store took down signs city officials requested and already had security cameras. He pledged to support the police.
"We've been here for 15 years," he said. "We love the people. We love the cops. We can't do anything about what people do off our property."