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St. Petersburg store near shooting says early-morning crowds are good for business

ST. PETERSBURG — The "thumpers" aren't going anywhere: They're good for business.

After a shooting early Monday, neighbors near Choice Food Store, 3401 Fifth Ave. S, complained about large crowds congregating near the store about 3 a.m. on weekends and some weeknights after nightclubs close. They say the revelers blast loud music from their vehicles, leave trash and get in fights.

Police have been called to the convenience store at least 150 times in the past year on crowd-related complaints. Neighbors are fed up.

But the store is happy.

"They've never been a problem," said Leo Huss, manager of Choice Food Store. "If you (run) a business, like me, you would be happy to see that your business is doing well at night."

He said he hasn't gotten complaints from the surrounding neighborhood and that police monitor the crowd.

Shots rang out at 3:16 a.m. near the store after a crowd gathered Monday, police said. A 31-year-old man was wounded in the shoulder. A police officer chased a fleeing Buick and shot two men after one of them pulled a gun, police said.

Huss said the store isn't responsible for anything that happens nearby.

"From what I heard, the shooting happened by the pawnshop" down the street, he said. He added: "If something happened outside, that's not in our hands."

Eight people work at the store and have mouths to feed, Huss said. He doesn't understand the new complaints.

"We've been having this crowd for 10 years,'' Huss said. "Why is it an issue right now?"

City Council member Wengay Newton, who represents the neighborhood, said he hasn't received any complaints and said crowds have gathered there as long as he can remember.

He said police make sure everything runs smoothly.

"We understand their concerns, but if they ain't breaking the laws, there's not a lot we can do," he said.

The biggest challenge is controlling the noise, Newton said, and that's tough to do after an appellate court found the state law allowing police to ticket booming car stereos violates the First Amendment.

"That tool right now is in the shop," Newton said.

St. Petersburg store near shooting says early-morning crowds are good for business

09/15/11 [Last modified: Friday, September 16, 2011 9:52am]

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