‘We don't discriminate'
The coffee shop's owner, Jamie Zumwalt, denied that her business is a haven for sex offenders.
“We allow anyone who wants to hang out there to do so,” Zumwalt said.
“And not just to drink coffee ... We have a food pantry on Saturdays for groceries; we have the Free Store for physical needs. ... We don't discriminate against anyone.”
Zumwalt said Joe's Addiction is more than a coffee shop. She said the businesses she runs in Valley Brook also offer free counseling services.
As for the sex offenders, Zumwalt said she hasn't had any problems with them.
“They are just like any of the other folks that we are helping,” she said. “Some of them are homeless, some are drug addicts or alcoholics. ... I'm unaware of any sexual problems ... from the folks who hang out there.”
The Rev. David Nichols, the founder of Hand Up Ministries, said he can't control where the sex offenders who live at his trailer park go or whom they interact with.
“I own the property and I have staff there, but they are not in prison anymore,” Nichols said. “It's up to the coffee shop whether they let them come there, not me.”
Nichols also said that most of the “sex offenders” who are concerning Valley Brook residents are likely homeless and not living at his trailer park.
“It's easy for them to blame me, but there are hundreds of homeless sex offenders living in that area — and all over the city,” he said.
“Most of them are not from my place.”
Nieman said local residents who signed the petition want the town's Board of Trustees to refuse to renew Zumwalt's business license, which would essentially put her out of business.
In Valley Brook, business owners must renew their business licenses once a year.
“I don't know if we're going to do that,” Nieman said. “We'll take it up at a future meeting and see what happens.”