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Cleveland store owners fight shutdown due to neighborhood drug activity

Store owners say they aren't part of drug activity
CLE store owners fight shutdown due to neighborhood drug activity
Posted at 10:21 PM, Mar 07, 2022

CLEVELAND — Hilda and Sam Husien maintain they are unfairly being held responsible for illegal drug sales in Cleveland's Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood, causing the city and Cuyahoga County Prosecutor to close their business as an alleged nuisance to public safety.

The city and Prosecutor Michael O'Malley moved forward on a restraining order on March 4, temporarily closing American Food Market and boarding up Abe's Beauty Supply next door, both located on Detroit Avenue.

CLE store owners fight shutdown due to neighborhood drug activity
Signs posted on Cleveland's American Food Market on Detroit Avenue

American Food Market owner Sam Husien told News 5 his store should not be held responsible for drug activity going on outside his store or in the parking lot. Husien said he's helped Cleveland police over the past few years make drug arrests outside his business by providing crucial surveillance video.

“How can we be the cause of it, if no drug activity happens in the store, for 35-years we have never gotten in trouble with the police,” Husien said. “So they don’t want any drug activity, which I don’t blame them, we don’t want no drug activity around here either, but we can’t control that. We can control what’s inside the store, we can’t control what’s outside the store.”

CLE store owners fight shutdown due to neighborhood drug activity
Hilda Husien said the store will be missed by the neighborhood if it's permanently closed

Hilda Husien told News 5 permanently closing her store will hurt residents who need groceries and don't have transportation to go to locations that are further away.

“Oh we are devastated, we didn’t know what else to do, these are our friends this is our neighborhood," Husien said. “And the customers, we are very close to them, this is very convenient for them, why should we all be paying this price?”

“We’ve never had drug activity in the store, we’ve never had a robbery, we’ve never had anything wrong with our store. You know, how can we control what’s going on outside.”

But O'Malley told News 5 the Husien's have had plenty of chances to play a significant role in curtailing drug activity on their property and in the Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood.

O'Malley cited the complaint filed against both businesses in Cuyahoga County Court and told News 5 Cleveland police have collected evidence that will prove both businesses are responsible for being a nuisance to public safety and playing a role in drug activity that's led to multiple drug arrests over the past few years.

CLE store owners fight shutdown due to neighborhood drug activity
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O'Malley

O'Malley said the city and the county need to more often use Cleveland's nuisance law to address problem businesses across the city.

“This is an extreme measure that is used in very, very few cases," O'Malley said. “We are going to aggressively pursue businesses that allow this type of activity to occur on their property.”

“You have open-air sales of drugs that infringes on the quality of life in that neighborhood and the safety of the residents. The fact that this is the first time that we've had to do this in our office with regard to this type of location tells a lot.”

O'Malley told News 5 he doesn't believe the Husien's are without fault when it comes to chronic drug activity.

“We do not believe that to be true, they could be doing more, and they should have been doing more, and this, quite frankly, should never have gotten to this point," O'Malley said.

The complaint filed in Cuyahoga County Court states:

Extensive surveillance of this location has revealed a “drive-thru” drug trafficking operation in which drugs are prepared and packaged inside the stores and in the immediate vicinity, then sold to customers waiting in cars located in the parking lot or lined up on the street adjacent to the Premises

The case is set for a March 21 hearing before Cuyahoga County Judge Cassandra Collier-Williams, who could rule the businesses to be reopened or permanently closed.

News 5 learned this isn't the first time the City of Cleveland has tried to take action against the American Food Market. The former Ward 15 Cleveland Councilmember told News 5 he made multiple attempts to get the liquor license of the business suspended by the State of Ohio over neighborhood issues allegedly caused by the food market. The Councilman said each time he reached a memorandum of understanding with the Husien's about improvements but said each time the Husien's didn't follow the agreement.

Meanwhile, the Husien's told News 5 they are prepared to make significant security upgrades if the court allows them to reopen and serve the community.

“Well, I wish that they will let us open on the March 21 to serve the community and to go back to work," Sam Husien said. "To us, it’s very devastating, we feel very bad, we’ve always tried to help the community.”