Beckley City Council passes ordinance to purchase former Zen’s Café

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BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — City officials in Beckley came to a final decision on a controversy weeks in the making regarding a vacant building.

In the Beckley city council meeting on Tuesday, July 27, the idea to purchase the former Zen’s Café building and lease it to Fruits of Labor was up for discussion for a second and final time.

After everyone spoke their peace and everyone’s thoughts were presented, the outcome remained the same. Three for the purchase, three against, and with one councilman choosing to abstain, the tiebreaking vote fell to Mayor Rob Rappold. At the beginning of September, the city will officially own the building.

Those who spoke in opposition of the purchase felt like the city is casting aside the needs of the small business owners.

“I work hard every single day, and i don’t have a building that I desire to accommodate the type of business that I want, but I have to work hard to get it,” said Brian Brown, a realtor in Beckley.

Brown believes not only will this create a precedent of business owners coming to the city asking for a buyout, but the city is also prioritizing certain business owners.

He was very upset to learn the Cheers business once residing in the building was evicted as a condition of the purchase.

Brown felt there are plenty of cheaper properties up for sale or lease in uptown Beckley. He wondered why they chose this one.

“Why not choose one of the other buildings that was for sale uptown, several others within walking distance of that one could have been purchased that were turn key ready as well,” said Brown.

According to Mayor Rappold, the former Zen’s Building was the best suited for the café and sandwich shop taking its place.

“Zen’s is a valuable piece of property it is a piece of property that sat vacant for four years,” said Mayor Rappold.

Another concern both community and council members have are the homeless and drug problem throughout the streets of uptown Beckley.

Councilman Cody Reedy voted against the purchase, as he believed the negatives outweigh the positives.

“I think this was a decision that we are going to look back on years down the road and be one of the worst purchases the city has ever made,” said Reedy.

Mayor Rappold believes the nature of the business, giving a second chance to recovering addicts will only help reduce the problem.

“The number of people that you have attending or being a customer to a place like fruits of labor, the less significant those ne’er-do-wells become,” said Rappold.

Rappold believes with a little faith and hard work, this will be a turning point for uptown Beckley.

Mayor Rappold said they plan to open the business in the fall.

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