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Minesaha, Inc. v. Town of Webb

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

April 14, 2017

Minesaha, Inc., d/b/a Exprezit
v.
Town of Webb

         Appeal from Houston Circuit Court (CV-16-900231)

          PER CURIAM

         Minesaha, Inc., d/b/a Exprezit ("Minesaha"), appeals from a judgment entered by the Houston Circuit Court ("the circuit court") dismissing its action against the Town of Webb ("the town"). We reverse the judgment and remand this cause for further proceedings.

         Background

         On June 6, 2016, Minesaha filed a complaint against the town in the circuit court. In its complaint, Minesaha alleged, in relevant part:

"3. This complaint is brought pursuant to Ala. Code 1975[, ] § 28-3A-11, [1] and seeks reversal of the [town]'s denial of a retail liquor license applied for by [Minesaha].
"4. On April 12, 2016, [Minesaha] applied for a Lounge Retail Liquor License -- Class II[2] by filing an application to the State of Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. The purpose of this license was to allow [Minesaha's] store ... to operate as a package liquor store.
"5. Between April 12, 2016[, ] and May 23, 2016, the Police Chief of the [town] posted surveys throughout the town asking citizens if they felt [that Minesaha's] gas station should be granted a license to sell liquor. The majority of responses to said survey were in favor of the license being granted.
"6. On or about April 18, 2016, representatives of [Minesaha] attended a city council meeting in [the town]. ([Minesaha] is owned and operated by immigrants from India). At said meeting, or shortly after said meeting, representatives of [Minesaha] were told that the [town] would deny the application due to [Minesaha's] owners['] and operators['] race and national origins. More specifically[, ] that there was worry of [Minesaha]'s owners and operators 'taking over' the town.
"7. On May 23, 2016[, ] the [town] held a city council meeting in which the city council voted 5-0 in favor of denying [Minesaha's] application. Multiple council members declined to give [a] reason as to the denial.
"8. That the [town] has denied [Minesaha's] application to sell liquor arbitrarily and without good cause.
"9. [Minesaha] now seeks judicial review of the [town]'s decision in denying the application in accordance with Ala. Code 1975[, ] § 28-3A-11.
"WHEREFORE, PREMISES CONSIDERED, [Minesaha] requests this Honorable Court issue an Order against [the town], reversing the [town]'s denial of [Minesaha's] application for [a] license to sell liquor, and Order the [town] to issue [Minesaha] a Lounge Retail Liquor License Class II (Package)."

(Emphasis added.)

         The town moved to dismiss Minesaha's complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), Ala. R. Civ. P., arguing that, based on the facts alleged in its complaint, Minesaha could not obtain the relief that it had requested because, the town said, § 28-3A-11, Ala. Code 1975, "is applicable only to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board" and does not grant the town the power to issue liquor licenses. Instead, the town argued, "'its consent and approval' is a necessary condition for the ABC Board to be required to issue a liquor license under this section." (Quoting § 28-3A-11.) The town attached to its motion as "Exhibit A" a copy of § 28-3A-11 but did not present to the circuit court any matters that were outside Minesaha's complaint.[3]

         Nevertheless, the circuit court subsequently entered an order scheduling a hearing regarding the town's "motion to dismiss, or in the alternative summary judgment, " a transcript of which is not included in the record. Minesaha thereafter filed a response to the town's "motion for summary judgment, " in which it argued: "[Section 28-3A-11] is not the only grounds alleged in [Minesaha]'s complaint. [Minesaha] also raise[d] constitutional questions of due process and equal protection within its complaint." Minesaha further argued that "the decision of the [town] in denying an application for a liquor license is subject to judicial review[, ] and is reversible if it is shown that the [town] acted arbitrarily in denying the application for a liquor license, " citing, among other cases, Inn of Oxford, Inc. v. City of Oxford, 366 So.2d 690, 692 (Ala. 1978)(explaining that "arbitrary action of a local government unit in withholding its approval of a liquor license is subject to judicial review"), in support of its argument. In light of the foregoing, Minesaha asked that it be permitted to "amend [its] complaint to seek [a] petition for [the] Writ of Certiorari in this matter."

         The town filed a "reply brief to [Minesaha]'s response and memorandum in support of its motion to dismiss, " in which it essentially elaborated upon the position set forth in its motion to dismiss and asserted that the town's decision had been "based on public safety concerns and the various respondents' opposition to the application." The town also argued: "[Minesaha] is bound by [its] complaint. Because the only available method of judicial review with regard to denial of a liquor license is by common law of writ of certiorari, the Complaint fails."

         Minesaha thereafter filed an amended complaint, which was substantially identical to its original complaint, with the exception of the following changes made to the final paragraphs:

"9. [Minesaha] now seeks judicial review of the [town]'s decision in denying the application in accordance with the laws of the State of Alabama.
"WHEREFORE, PREMISES CONSIDERED, [Minesaha] requests this Honorable Court grant [Minesaha] a bench trial on this matter, issue an Order against the [town], reverse the [town]'s denial of [Minesaha's] application for license to sell liquor, and Order the [town] to reconsider [Minesaha's] application at a public hearing."

(Emphasis added.)

         On September 21, 2016, the circuit court entered a judgment that provided, in its entirety:

"This case comes before the Court as a result of the denial of a Lounge Retail Liquor License --Class II ...

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