July 24, 2014

Elyria
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Bars won’t be judged as 6-pack

ELYRIA – The owners of six bars targeted for liquor license review by the city will not be lumped together in an all-or-nothing battle when they face off before agents from the state Division of Liquor Control.

The state agency has received requests from the city to hold hearings to determine if licenses should be renewed at Ely’s Inn, Red Fox Lounge, New Image Sports Bar, Toy Box Night Club, Vic’s Nightclub and the T&A Bar. The notices were received by the state Friday, days before the Aug. 31 deadline the city had to formally object to the annual renewals.

As of Monday, hearings have yet to be scheduled, said Matt Mullins, spokesman for the Division of Liquor Control.

When the hearings are held, Police Chief Duane Whitely said, bars will not be pitted against one another.

“I can’t see the state holding one bar accountable for the actions of another,” he said.

Therefore, each case will be handled individually, he said.

Officers already are keeping track of crime in and around bars, and a special bar detail developed earlier this summer by Whitely is working to keep problems at the bars to a minimum.

The detail, which operates primarily 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, is designed to have officers walking through downtown bars for unannounced visits throughout peak hours of operation on the weekends. They are there to keep the peace and enforce laws when needed.

The idea to put more officers on the streets came about after a shooting in early May at the Toy Box Night Club sent three people to the hospital. A 21-year-old Elyria man has since turned himself into police in connection with the shooting, but the bloodshed left city officials wondering if the violence in downtown was out of control.

In addition to the May 8 shooting at the Broad Street bar, police officers have dealt with other shootings, street brawls and stabbings in and around some downtown bars in recent months.

City officials first responded to the violence by proposing alcohol be prohibited from the area, but City Council quickly learned it did not have the power to dry out the area. That’s when the idea was narrowed to dealing with specific bars that are considered establishments of concern for police.

Whitely said the city has never targeted the liquor permits of city bars collectively or individually.

Nonetheless, the state has rules for how each renewal objection will be handled, including what evidence the state will consider and who can testify at the hearings on behalf of the city and permit holders.

Although the safety and welfare of citizens is its first priority, the division is guided by statutes, rules and legal cases in determining whether to overrule or sustain an objection, according to documentation that outlines the process.

The cases against each bar will hinge on whether the city can prove one of the following conditions:

– The permit holder has had a conviction of a crime related to their ability to operate a liquor establishment.

– The applicant has an addiction to alcohol or drugs.

– The permit holder operates with disregard for laws, regulations or local ordinances.

– When applying for the license, the permit holder lied or misrepresented the truth.

– Police or law enforcement officers have trouble gaining entrance to the bar.

– The location of the bar interferes with the public decency, sobriety, peace or good order of the neighborhood.

– The saturation in the neighborhood is such that renewal of the permit would be detrimental to the public.

Mullins said he cannot speculate on when decisions will be rendered once the hearings have been held.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.