"I understand where the city government is coming from, to better off our neighborhood," Lee said. "But we all need to think about a solution where everybody, everybody can live together."

City officials say they are mindful that the action would disproportionately affect one community and plan to link the owners with assistance. The zoning overhaul is likely more than a year away and faces many public hearings and meetings.

"We understand there will be challenges for some individual business owners," said Thomas J. Stosur, city planning director. "But this is an opportunity for the city to support neighborhoods eager to reduce high liquor store density, the legacy of which is high crime and generally poorer health outcomes."

He said the research shows stores that sell carry-out liquor "double the risk of assaultive violence and are associated with increased homicide rates."

The city has about 1,300 liquor licenses, including stores, taverns and restaurants. By 2015, officials want to reduce the number by 15 percent. To that end, zoning officials also will take action against taverns that sell more alcohol as carry-out than at the bar.

There are more than 500 of these outlets, open seven days a week, and the majority of those owners are not Korean-Americans, according to the state chapter of the Korean American Grocers & Licensed Beverage Association.

The group has not taken a firm position on the issue, but officials are "carefully considering the possibility of discrimination in our analysis of this proposed legislation," said Bryan Everett, legal counsel to the association.

He said he hopes the issue is explored, along with impact on city and state revenue and property rights.

"My clients are willing to make necessary sacrifices in order to make Baltimore a better place to live and work," he said. But, he added, "we feel that the comprehensive rezoning bill places far too great a burden on only one particular class of business owner in Baltimore City in order to justify the purported intent of the legislation."

Some owners, like Ha, who is a board member of the association, say they are supporting extended families on their income.

Few, however, may have become such important members of their communities.

"She clearly cares about Baltimore," said the Eastern District police commander, Maj. Melvin T. Russell. "She feeds hundreds of people at a clip. She's an advocate for the small business community. And when the police need help from the community, she's the first one I call."

Ha lives upstairs from the store she bought more than 14 years ago. And while it has a plexiglass shield and video cameras, she said it's not to protect her from her immediate community. She's never been robbed. And her patrons are loyal enough to keep an eye on her.

"She watched out for the neighborhood," said Reginald Johnson, who came in to buy a beer Monday. "Everyone knows that. She feeds people. Why would they take that from the neighborhood?"

And another customer, Herbert Coleman, added, "She supports the neighborhood at Thanksgiving and Christmas. And she hands out free stuff. I got a hat once. … She doesn't contribute to crime. She's always calling the police and reporting crime."

Coleman noted that no one loiters on her corner, as they do at other liquor stores.

Ha said many in those groups of men at nearby corners are drug dealers, whom she blames for nearby violence. She acknowledges that some other stores may not be as fearless as she in reporting them to police or shooing them away. But she doesn't believe the liquor stores are causing the violence.

"Why doesn't the city go after them?" she said about the dealers and those who own vacant properties where they operate. "Aren't they a health problem?"

For now, Ha, who was standing beneath several certificates of appreciation from the city and police hanging on her wall, feels like her adoptive home has turned on her.

"I don't know how to do anything else," she said about her business. "I don't know about clothes, except to get dressed. I don't know about food. I know liquor."

meredith.cohn@baltsun.com

kevin.rector@baltsun.com

Staff multimedia/news intern Hojung Lee contributed to this article.

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