Family discusses concerns surrounding Walia Convenience Store

Local News

A family says its store is being blamed for problems in a central Sioux Falls neighborhood.

Walia Convenience Store is located at 10th and Indiana, near a couple of organizations that serve the homeless population.

The family says its most popular items are Ethiopian foods and spices, while alcohol accounts for about 20 percent of sales.

In an October email attached to the council agenda for December 3, a law enforcement officer says Walia is a large contributor of alcohol to the transient population.

The email goes on to say intoxication is leading to issues including, more garbage, fights, and people going to the bathroom behind the business.

But the family says there’s a bigger problem.

They wants others in in the community to know this:

“We’re a victim of this issue as well,” Owner’s Son-In-Law Michael Alemu said.

Michael Alemu is the son-in-law of the woman who’s owned the business for about a decade now.

“We’ve never opened a bottle and allowed a person to consume alcohol within the store or within our property. We have never done that,” Alemu said.

Alemu says they’re trying to combat problems in the area.

About two years ago, the store started closing at 8:00, rather than 10:00 at night.

The store is also phasing out inexpensive, high-powered alcoholic drinks.

“We’re working on it as we speak. We’ve already gotten rid of a couple of others,” Alemu said.

The renewal of Walia Convenience Store’s liquor license will be discussed this month at a Sioux Falls City Council Meeting.

“The thing that we’ll be looking at tonight is whether the location of this convenience store is at this point a suitable place to sell these kind of beverages and whether the management are suitable people in order to run this operation. We have to be careful because in this particular situation we’re acting like judges. It’s called Quasi-judicial mode,” Sioux Falls City Councilor Janet Brekke said.

Alemu says alcoholism in the community is the bigger issue.

“Getting rid of one store’s liquor license won’t solve this. This is just going to push the problem away to another area,” Alemu said.

The 2020 renewal of the store’s liquor license was on November’s agenda, but it was deferred to the agenda on December 3 to allow the family more time to address the issues and the opportunity to obtain legal counsel, according to a Sioux Falls city councilor.

Alemu says they plan to ask the council to defer the vote to a later date in December.  

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