July 29, 2014

Elyria
Cloudy
71°F
test

Gas USA pleads case to Liquor Control Board

ELYRIA — An Elyria councilman told a hearing officer for the Ohio Division of Liquor Control on Monday that he’s seen improvements near Gas USA after new owners took over in March, and he thinks they deserve a license to sell beer and wine.

“I don’t see any reason to reject their request,” said Councilman Herman Larkins, D-5th Ward. “This ward needs to maintain convenience businesses.”

But opponents such as Chris Baker, executive director of the South Elyria Neighborhood Development Association, argued against a new liquor license, saying the area has improved because the state pulled the license of the former owner last October.

“You don’t see the open air drug trafficking and prostitution,” Baker said.

No decision was made regarding the request by the station’s new owner, Jasvinder Gill of Solon. Hearing officer Sharon Mull will make a recommendation to the division director, who will decide in four to six weeks whether to grant the request, said Matt Mullins, a spokesman for the liquor control division.

Under the previous owner, the station became a lightning rod for the neighborhood — many residents said it became a haven for drug dealers and troublemakers.

Assistant Elyria Law Director Michael Szekely questioned Gill’s husband, Kulwinber “Ken” Gill, about an incident that occurred at one of the store’s owned by his wife at 11625 Superior Ave., Cleveland.

Cleveland police said marijuana and underage liquor sales took place there, and the police report lists Ken Gill as a suspect. The report, dated Sept. 9, 2005, said Ken Gill would be issued a summons for a charge of underage sales to minors, but Gill said he never ended up being convicted of anything.

Gill reiterated what police noted in their report — that Gill said the offenders told him he had to hire them to work at the drive-through or they’d do something to him and his family.

Gill said he cooperated with police during the probe, and he thought that the charges had been dismissed.

Barbara Burke, the daughter of Ike Chapman, the late councilman for the 5th Ward, testified on behalf of the Gills. Burke, who manages the station for the Gills and who helped do so for the previous owners, said the Gills took positive steps to clean up the station — they got rid of the pay phones outside that were used for making drug calls.

“Someone would make a phone call and a car would pull up,” Burke said.

Burke said the Gills do a service to the neighborhood, stocking such necessary items as baby food, and they are scrupulous about expiration dates on such items. She said the station also provides services such as check cashing and postal stamps for those without transportation elsewhere.

Szekely, however, said a liquor license won’t help the neighborhood and shouldn’t be granted. It would, he said, “substantially interfere with decency and good order’’ of the neighborhood — one of the provisos under which the state can deny a license.

Contact Cindy Leise at 329-7245 or cleise@chroniclet.com.