Owner of ‘Club Sunoco’ promises to help Flint police combat rowdy behavior
Taher Alwajih says his gas station is popular for its chicken and rappers filming music videos there
FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - The owner of a Flint gas station dubbed “Club Sunoco” says there is little he can do personally to stop fights, violence and rowdy behavior on his property.
He believes the Sunoco at Ballenger Highway and Flushing Road has become a popular night spot because of the chicken he serves and rappers filming music videos on his property.
ABC12 has been reporting about repeated violence and neighbor complaints around the Sunoco. Bystanders have recorded videos of at least two fights at the gas station, one of which police linked to a shooting elsewhere in the city.
Neighbors have been complaining for a year about loud noise and drivers doing burnouts in the road. Flint Police Chief Terence Green said his officers have responded to 38 calls to the gas station so far this year.
The gas station’s owner, Taher Alwajih, said he spoke with Green on Thursday morning and promised to work with him. Alwajih posted no loitering and no trespassing signs at the request of police.
“Whatever it takes with the police for me to do, I will do it,” he said. “They asked us for stickers. They asked us to call, we call.”
Alwajih said the rowdy activity is out of his control, but he denies that the business has been an ongoing concern. He claims that one of his employees called police once this year and believes only one of two fights that went viral on social media actually happened on his property.
“I don’t think so, because I’m the owner and I know about my site,” Alwajih said. “I’ve been here two years. That’s the only incident that happened.”
He said he can’t jump in personally to stop bad behavior.
“I think the best way is to maybe to have a cruiser come in here sometimes -- just to drive by or show up when we call them. That’s all it is,” Alwajih said.
He said the crowds are not invited to the Sunoco, but he has theories on why the gas station became a popular gathering spot during the coronavirus pandemic:
- Alwajih said they serve great chicken.
- Two rappers from Los Angeles and Detroit filmed music videos there.
About 16 weeks ago, AllStar Jr. posted photos on Instagram showing his music video shoot from behind the scenes. In February, PM Capo shared a video on YouTube, which was shot at the Sunoco.
Alwajih said both artists paid him to use his location.
“It’s social media blown out of this site. And so people can -- we get people coming here, just to take picture by the doorway, the window and leave,” he said.
Alwajih said he recently turned down another rapper who wanted to film at the Sunoco, because he wants the situation to calm down more.
Green, the police chief, said the gas station has been quieter so far this week. The Flint Police Department has not responded to any reports of fights or loitering since last week.
It’s possible some people are avoiding the gas station hangout after the Chief announced last week that investigators are using facial recognition software to identify perpetrators of bad behavior. The new loitering and trespassing signs outside the store could also be a deterrent.
Green has called for Alwajih to close the Sunoco by 10 p.m. every night to curtail criminal activity instead of remaining open 24 hours a day. But Alwajih said closing at night would cause more harm than good, because he’d have to put bars over the massive windows or hire security.
He doesn’t have that concern right now with four or five employees inside at all times.
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