Coffee shop plans fall through after Charlotte rejects Ramadan hour request

CHARLOTTE — In a routine vote, Charlotte City Council signed off on a coffee shop for the JW Clay parking deck in University City last month, but the deal has fallen through. A source with knowledge of the negotiations told Channel 9 it’s because the city wouldn’t allow the coffee shop to stay open late during Ramadan.

Jibril Hough is one of tens of thousands of Muslims in Charlotte who is currently fasting from sunrise to sunset during the holy month of Ramadan.

“The fasting during Ramadan is a pillar of the Islamic faith,” resident Jibril Hough said. “This is one month a year where we can’t eat or drink until sunset. So, you have Muslims waiting all day to eat or drink.”

As a result, some businesses are staying open later hours. That was the hope of the coffee shop that was planning to lease from the city of Charlotte in the JW Clay parking deck. Charlotte City Council unanimously approved a contract with Qamaria Yemeni coffee in February. But sources tell Channel 9′s government reporter Joe Bruno the deal is off and a dispute over late night hours for Ramadan is to blame

That’s disappointing to Hough.

“It’s just one month a year,” he said. “If this was Christmas, or another holiday they feel closer to, I think they would be more liberal with this.”

Sources tell Channel 9 the coffee shop, Qamaria Yemeni, wanted to stay open until 11 p.m. but was told the latest it can remain open is 10 p.m.. After agreeing to that, the coffee shop asked for an exception to be open until 2 a.m. during Ramadan. Sources say the city said no and cited federal guidelines since it is near a light rail station.

Channel 9 reached out to the city of Charlotte multiple times for a comment on this story before it was initially published. Thursday evening, the city confirmed the coffee shop will not happen. A spokesperson said CATS doesn’t allow businesses to operate in parking decks between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. “for safety, security and liability reasons.” The lease broke down after an exception for special hours for Ramadan.

“As a governmental entity, CATS avoids making exceptions on the basis of religion,” a spokesperson told Bruno Thursday evening.

The coffee shop declined an interview.

Hough says the late hours during Ramadan are appreciated and necessary.

“Muslims are awake during the night, late at night during Ramadan,” he said. “We pray during the night and coffee helps give you that boost that you need to stay up.”

On Tuesday night, Mecklenburg County commissioners passed a resolution honoring the month of Ramadan. Hough says this sends a message of appreciation and respect. That’s a message he says the city isn’t sending.

“I call Charlotte the city of Oz,” he said. “You fly over the city and it looks beautiful. You see the buildings, but it is not always what it seems.”

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