City of Houston sues to close Lucky Evening Food Store for failing to tackle crime in its area

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) – The Lucky Evening Food Store in southwest Houston has been open for 20 years under the same owner.

“It got progressively worse in terms of crime over the last few decades, but these people were committed to the community,” said Loyd Neal, the attorney representing the store owner.

In March, the store, located in the 8900 block of South Braeswood, and the owners were sued for common nuisance by the city.

The lawsuit says there were repeated incidents of delivery and possession of controlled substances, theft, aggravated robbery, aggravated assault, unlawful carrying of a weapon and murder on the property.

“They’re being sued because they supposedly, knowingly condone crime on this property,” Neal said.

When Mayor Sylvester Turner and Houston Police Chief Troy Finner announced the One Safe Houston initiative in February 2022, they pledged to press charges against businesses deemed crime hotspots.

Neal and his client disagree that crime is bad in the area. In an exhibit filed in the case, they list the 720 incidents that occurred within 1,000 feet of the grocery store from January 1, 2020 to June 22, 2022. Employees had their cars shot and there are bullet holes on the side of the building.

“I would say you can’t go into town and say the convenience store employees can stop a bullet or should be responsible if somebody walks by and commits crimes and shoots people,” Neal said.

The center of the Strip is surrounded by apartment complexes and a homeless camp.

According to the store’s attorney, they installed surveillance cameras, burglar bars, high-intensity lighting and signage to prevent loiterers and affidavits from trespassing.

“They don’t want that element there,” Neal said. “They want the city to step in and provide the police protection they pay the taxes for and protect them.”

The store owner realized that calling the police is actually detrimental to his business. With every call they make to the police for help, they believe it was another mark against them in the eyes of the city that ultimately led to this lawsuit.

“You’re like, wait a minute,” Neal said. “We call the police and report the criminals and then you use that statistic to presume our guilt under the law that we don’t stop the crime?”

It has become a self-fulfilling problem in their eyes.

City Attorney Arturo Michel said they are in many ways basing who they are bringing the Chapter 125 lawsuits against on complaints.

“We rely on information from the HPD and we rely on all of the case law that looks at the level of instances and whether the owners have done anything about it,” Michel said. “It’s on a case-by-case basis. It’s not an exact objective determination. There’s a lot of subjectivity in that, but we have a whole section of the legal department looking at this all the time.”

State law permits the attorney general’s office, district, counties, cities, or individuals to prosecute “a person who maintains a place where persons habitually go for the following purposes and who knowingly tolerates activity and further fails to take reasonable steps attempts to reduce the activity maintain a common nuisance.” The statute goes on to list more than two dozen crimes.

The city seeks a temporary and permanent restraining order against the store and the property to stop enabling the crime.

“One of the penalties is that the city can come in and turn off your utilities,” Neal explained. “The city can come and revoke your certificate of occupancy. Another penalty is that the city can force the landlord to come and terminate your lease. One of them says that if you violate the injunction, you can be put in jail.”

Neal filed a constitutional challenge to the state law used in the lawsuit. He said it violated both the constitutions of Texas and the United States, among several reasons, he said it was vague.

“This is a very important legal issue right now,” Neal said. “What he’s done is being used to aggressively pursue innocent corporations that pay taxes and shift the responsibility of stopping crime to them, but what’s so unfair about it is not only that they risk losing their businesses, property and equipment and having their property shut down, but now innocent business owners are being asked to spend tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees to defend themselves.”

He said the law was not meant to shut down businesses that pay taxes and fail to catch criminals.

Based on what a judge rules on Neal’s complaint, there could be statewide effects.

“Now if you close that convenience store, do you think you’ve stopped the crime?” Neal asked. “No, you just moved it to the street. It just made it look like the city accomplished something by taking action or maybe putting $10,000 in someone’s pocket by as a penalty.”

ABC13 contacted the city to raise Neal and his client’s concerns and asked if they intended to take action against high-crime apartment complexes in the city, but did not. had a response.

The city also filed a nuisance lawsuit against Spivey’s Uptown nightclub.

“I think Spivey is in a lot of ways, it doesn’t look like TABC is going to give them their liquor license and all of that can be factored into that,” Michel said.

A TABC spokesperson told ABC13 that their liquor license is currently expired and they are under active investigation. Depending on the result, they may not renew it.

The city also said it filed a TABC protest against Standard Bar on Washington Ave. TABC has confirmed that they are also under investigation which is expected to conclude in the coming week. The result will determine their ability to hold a liquor license.

For more on this story, follow Mycah Hatfield on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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