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Store owner worries new Sweetbay will take away business | Business

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Store owner worries new Sweetbay will take away business
Business, News
Store owner worries new Sweetbay will take away business

Palm Harbor, Florida -- For two years, Raj Patel has been the only liquor store in the Palm Harbor shopping plaza off East Lake Road.


In May, he will have company: 50 feet away, Sweetbay is moving in with its own liquor store.


"They have deep pockets," Patel says. "They're corporate. I'm a small, independent guy trying to support my family and make a living. It's tough."


Patel thought his lease with the property owners, Weingarten Realty out of Texas, gave him exclusive rights as the only liquor store in the plaza. But the fine print in the contract appears to have a loophole; a large store like Sweetbay can sell liquor as long as that represents less than 20 percent of its gross sales.


"That 20 percent or less is more than I could ever do in this store," Patel laments.


Sweetbay officials confirm having a conversation with Patel, offering to draw up a proposal to buy his liquor store. But will it be enough for him to give up his family business?


"I'm not willing to relocate or sell," Patel says. "It's security, it's my family and kids."


Patel's customers say they'd continue shopping at East Lake Wine and Liquor, because of its prices and customer service.

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