City Council members have agreed to help Los Angeles Raiders defensive end Greg Townsend obtain a liquor license in Compton despite their declaration that liquor stores are a nuisance and that they will attempt to block rebuilding stores destroyed in the riots.
The football star will be given nearly $150,000 in low-interest loans to open the Raider Sports Bar and Club in the city-owned Ramada Hotel, the council decided Tuesday.
"A sports bar is a lot different than a liquor store on the streets," said Councilwoman Bernice Woods.
A bar featuring televised sports, dancing and NFL celebrities may help revive the floundering Ramada, which has suffered from low room occupancy and management turnovers for the past year, city officials said.
Townsend said the Raider Sports Bar would be a dream come true and a gift to his hometown.
"This is about recycling black dollars, about giving back to the community," he said. "I'm trying to show something positive to Compton, to show that celebrities can come back to Compton and be welcomed with open arms."
Townsend plans to open his bar on Sept. 5 in 5,800 square feet at the back of the hotel. The space has no electricity, plumbing, paint or carpet. Townsend estimates renovation and opening costs at about $300,000.
Council members voted to give Townsend about half of his start-up cost in two loans at 8% interest from the city's allotment of federal funds.
He will receive $100,000 in block grant funds from the Revolving Loan Fund. That's about one-third of the total made available for 1992-93 by the Economic Development Agency. Another $48,000 will come from the Business Assistance Loan Program sponsored by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.
There was no discussion among council members on approving the loans. But the decision to help Townsend obtain a liquor license sparked controversy.
The council was divided over whether it was better to stem the flow of liquor licenses into Compton or bolster business for the hotel. Members voted 3 to 0 in favor of Townsend's bar. Mayor Walter R. Tucker III was absent, and Councilwoman Patricia Moore abstained.
"This city is heavily inundated with liquor stores and liquor licenses," Moore said. "We've got more than enough alcohol. What we need is movie theaters, sporting goods stores--that kind of quality merchandise.
"My concern is, if we allow continuing liquor sales in this city, if we hand out more licenses, what do we tell citizens who are concerned with what's good for the quality of life? They want good, wholesome businesses for our city."
In an 11-point plan published shortly after the civil unrest, Compton city officials called for special legislation creating a moratorium against rebuilding any Compton liquor stores. No such legislation has been passed, but the city is discouraging liquor licenses, officials said.
Though Moore argued that backing Townsend's plan for a sports bar would send a mixed message to the community, Mayor Pro Tem Omar Bradley said it was more important that Compton welcome back celebrities who grew up in the area.
"Mr. Townsend is coming back to the community," Bradley said, "and he's giving back some of what he took out."