November 28, 2014


Two Lorain bar owners fight city to keep their businesses

Gil Shields, property owner at Gil's International Lounge, explains some of the problems the bar has had over the years and attempts to try to rectify those problems. KRISTIN BAUER/CHRONICLE

Gil Shields, property owner at Gil’s International Lounge, explains some of the problems the bar has had over the years and attempts to try to rectify those problems. KRISTIN BAUER/CHRONICLE

LORAIN – Closing time was approaching at Gil’s International Lounge early Saturday and everyone was having a good time.

About 15 people sat at the bar while about 20 sat at tables socializing and flirting. Another 15 swayed to recorded hip-hop music on the dance floor. Then trouble started.

Around 1:55 a.m., a man in his early 20s – everyone at the bar was in their 20s or 30s – objected to being frisked by bouncer “Tank” Vaughn. A shoving match began.

“You gotta go!’ Vaughn screamed as he and a fellow bouncer began pushing the man and two of his friends about 15 yards out of the bar at 1840 E. 28th St.

Curses were exchanged on the sidewalk, and when the man and his friends returned to the bar about 10 minutes later, police were called. No one was arrested and no one got hurt, but the incident illustrated the rowdiness at the bar that city officials and police want closed.

On Aug. 19, City Council members approved a resolution to the Ohio Division of Liquor Control recommending Gil’s liquor permit be revoked. A hearing date hasn’t been set. A report by police to Council summarizing Gil’s problems said officers had responded to 59 calls between Jan. 1 and Aug. 1 including numerous fights and two stabbings.

“Criminal activity has become the norm for Gil’s International Lounge over the years,” the report said. “Not only did this criminal activity affect the patrons of the bar, it also endangered the citizens located in surrounding neighborhoods.”

Gil Shields – who opened the bar in 1989 – and bar manager Mark Parker said they try to run a safe establishment and Gil’s has its supporters. Tameka Cheers, 33, said she’s been coming to the bar for 10 years and has never had problems.

“If a person has a problem here, it’s because they brought it on themselves,” Cheers said.

Supporters include Tasha Fairley, 23, a stepsister of Renaldo Collins. In 2004, the 21-year-old Collins was fatally shot in the bar by Anthony Villa, who in 2005 was sentenced to at least 23 years imprisonment.

Collins was at the bar to pick up food. Villa was gunning for Harold Hawthorne, Collins stepfather. Hawthorne, a Gil’s bouncer, had kicked the then 24-year-old Villa out of the bar earlier for not having identification. Despite the killing, Fairley said she feels safe at the bar.

Patrons at the nearby Cotton Club, 1766 E. 28th St., also said they feel safe. Besides Gil’s, Council recommended the club and High Point Gas Mart, 2436 Broadway – formerly Liberty Gas – also have their permits revoked.

The Cotton Club serves food and non-alcoholic drinks after bars close at 2:30 a.m. and some Gil’s customers stop by after closing time.

Police accuse the club of serving after hours and said it’s a “known hangout” for gang members which club owner Anthony Barnhill denies. Around 2:40 a.m. Saturday, there were about 20 people in the club socializing and dancing. Bouncers and off-duty Cleveland police officers patted down customers as they entered.

“Most of these guys aren’t gang bangers,” said Andre Cheers, an entertainment promoter who books rappers to perform at the club. “They go to work on Monday. They come here to unwind.”

Several police cruisers were parked outside the club and several officers stood on the sidewalk. Patrons of the club and Gil’s accuse police of overkill. Andre Cheers, said the heavy police presence discourages customers, most of whom are black, from visiting the club and Gil’s.

“A person of African-American descent sees seven or eight police officers outside, they’re going to keep going,” said Cheers, a cousin of Tameka Cheers. “You see seven cops anywhere, you’re not going there.”

Parker said he’s tried to work with police, but they disagree.

The report to Council said Parker was convicted on July 9 of obstructing a search of the bar on June 24 at 3:06 a.m.

The report said a man with a security shirt on tried to close the front door on police, drinks were found on tables and gang members were among those at the bar.

Parker said the incident was a misunderstanding and he fired the guard who tried to close the door on police.

Parker said rowdy patrons are banned from the bar and incidents like the Saturday scuffle aren’t typical
However, Parker admitted he has his hands full. “I don’t know what to do,” he said.

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or

  • herekitttykaate

    what does one expect with the hip hop bs there. Thugs. Close it down!

  • MOE

    i think its funny how there closing business in our county but these thugs are still runing around causing problems.. teach these kids(thugs) responabilty and make them pay for their actions instead of the community getting torn apart.. we as business owners need to take a stand and show the city that is not our fault that the police cant control the thugs in our community … the system need to fight against the thugs as well… control the thugs and stop letting them go with a slap on the wrist and they wont be able to create problems for our businesses to take blame and get closed down… pppiisssedd

    • Mark B

      Change the atmosphere , change the music format and the thugs will not want to go there . Cater to the thugs with rap and you will have to live with the results. How important is it to the owners , Have a respectable bar and remain open , or cater to the thugs and be closed down, it really is the owners choise.

    • hottamomma

      well put moe, if they keep closing down stuff the thugs is going to move to the next neighborhood and mess it up, i say dont close it, make it 30 and over, at least i see gils is trying hiring bouncers and all. and y do the police want to close it? so they wont have to do there job. when everything closed down then the police will have to lay-off some officers cause there isnt anything to do, then they’re gonna wish there was some trouble around. if they can keep the thugs in jail or rehad or something then that would make a big difference

      • kj

        I am absolutely POSITIVE that even if a few bars close that Lorain Police Officers will still have PLENTY of issues to attend to. I highly doubt that the police are wanting to close the bars because they don’t feel like doing their job anymore. They are already underpaid and overworked. I highly doubt that police officers ever go on duty and hope to get called to a bar for stabbings and shootings. Trust me there are enough of them going on other places than bars. If you had a family member who was a police officer I highly doubt that you would want them attending to calls of ignorant people who are drunk and fighting just because you think a bar should stay open. Think about it before you say something so ignorant and stupid like that. The crime will not stop if the bars close. It is unfortunate for the bar owners that trash has to come into their establishment and give them a bad name. But hey if you want a place for all of the trash to go and make problems then more power to ya- like you said, at least our police officers will be “doing their job” by protecting and serving people like you by responding to violent offenders. If they aren’t what is the point in having them? oh wait- i know- usually in cities where they are not responding to violent calls it is because it is a safe community, i think that is what the system is shooting for. Think before you say something so stupid.

        • hottamomma

          let me tell you something MF’ER. you dont know me to call me stupid, i have an opinion just like you, just because you dont agree with my opinion doesnt mean im stupid only a ignorant [person would say that. i dont care what happens to that bar personally. ive never even been there, but to close it for some ignorant thugs that dont know how to act, thats taking out on the owner. like someone said, they r not trying to shut down other places where thugs be(schools or projects) so why try and shut down someones thats trying to make a living and trying to stop thugs from acting a fool by hiring bouncers, or could it be LPD is mad cause they r not hiring their officers? either way all people have there opinons, i respect urs so please respect mine.

          • kj

            if you read my comment right I never called you as a person ignorant or stupid. I understand that you have an opinion and as do I. To each their own. But they can’t close down schools, section 8 housing, and police respond to calls everyday at those locations. I agree with you when you say that, thugs as you call them, should not get away with just a slap on the wrist. And i just don’t see Lorain Police getting mad about them hiring off duty cleveland cops because the lorain cops are there enough as it is. As the article said in the past eight months they have been there 59 times. They mine as well get a pay check for working there. But they are working to keep it safe so the bar owner can stay open and not have to worry about “thugs.” One can never win. either there are too many cops outside a bar or there aren’t enough. no one will ever be happy. I hope the owner can stay open as a respectable business man. I get that we each have our own opinions and I am sorry that you thought i was calling you a stupid or ignorant person. I am not a “MF’ER.” watch who you say that to. Lorain police do their job and no one should be disrespecting them.

          • hottamomma

            im sorry also for calling u that, i just snapped a little when i thought you were calling me stupid and ignorant. thanks for clearing that up.

  • Ray Venn

    I wonder how many times the cops are “called” to Lorain High or Elyria High.

    But they’re not labeled a nuisance. What about Wilkes Villa or the projects in Lorain…

    It’s funny how a citizen owned business can be shut down for the same thing that happens in the projects or a school but nothing is said about that.

    • hottamomma


    • Zen Grouch

      Ohhhh… for a moment there, I imagined a beautiful world where the projects could be shut down!

      …but alas

    • Bill

      How many times are there reports of shots fired and people being stabbed and the staff at Elyria and Lorain Schools shutting the doors on the police? Ridiculous argument Raven.

  • Mark B

    I wonder why this same problem is not happening at a county bar? or a Rock And Roll Bar ? It certainly seems that there is a common denominator.

    • hottamomma

      dont worry if they keep shutting the thug bars down then they will have no choice but to come to the county bar or rock and roll bar. we dont want that to happen

  • hottamomma

    its not the bar owners fault at least he is trying having bouncers and all. so i really think hes trying, its the thugs hes trying to keep out and they get mad and act ignorant. but my advice to the owners make your clubs 30 and over or 35 and over

    • SoLoJimbo

      I bet if the owner was hiring off duty LORAIN COPS instead of cleveland cops for security, they wouldn’t be trying to close him down,

      • hottamomma


      • Zen Grouch

        Well then…

        Wouldn’t he be a total freakin’ idiot for not hiring off duty Lorain cops?

        I mean… unless your logic is flawed.

      • Cassie

        There’s a good reason the owner brought in Cleveland cops for security. Lorain cops would have noticed all the well-known drug dealers and criminals that frequent this lovely establishment.

  • Traci Anne Wolford

    What I find sadly amusing reading some of these comments is how a music genre is getting blamed for “thugs” being “thugs.” It’s no more rap/hip-hop music’s fault for people being the way they are than Judas Priest, Ozzy Osbourne or Blue Oyster Cult were responsible for the suicides that took place back in the 70s and 80s. Rappers rap about life as they know it; sure, some glorify the drug dealing, gang banging lifestyle, but if you’re a real fan of rap music, a lot of rappers tell tales of how NOT to live and what their experiences growing up in that environment was like and how they chose rap music to get away from it all. I agree with Moe; the juvenile courts turn younger thugs into older thugs because all they do is give them chance after chance, slaps on the wrist and tell them they have been a naughty boy/girl and not to do that anymore. And then want to bring charges against the PARENTS for whipping their kids behinds! I know, I went through the crap with having been my brother’s legal guardian. Stop blaming music, and whether you say it directly or indirectly, stop blaming a skin tone and start putting the blame where it needs to be. People need to be accountable for their actions, and the judicial system needs to be held accountable for theirs, as well, when they continue to let these little punks get away with so much!

    • oldruss

      Obviously, hip-hop music, per se, doesn’t make someone a “thug”; but it seems indisputable that “thugs” are attracted to bars that feature hip-hop music. But it should be clear, these liquor licenses are not being revoked because the bars involved feature hip-hop music. It is because they are, and have been, public nuisances. How many times do the police have to go out on call at, say, the Jack-a-lope, or at Applebee’s on Leavitt Rd., or at the Church Street Bar & Grill in Amherst. Not all establishments that serve liquor are trouble. Gil’s International and the Cotton Club are being singled out at this time, because they ARE trouble.

    • hottamomma

      wow you have the best post here. thanks for this post, you r a wonderful person

  • Pete

    I need a class in Ebonics just to read most of these posts. Did any of you actually graduate? Maybe that’s half the problem with society.

  • Zen Grouch

    If these bars are places where violent thug on thug crimes are committed, what exactly IS the problem?

    That sort of thing will never be eliminated, so isolation is the next best thing.

  • stillsleepyeyes

    Hmm…..nothing in here about copa? …there bang bang shoot em up there………….or maybe being hid because of the owners partner?

  • DavePrice

    Why shut down a successful business in Lorain just because it is successful? The example given in the article shows the bouncers are patting down customers and ejecting trouble, why punish the owners?

    • hottamomma

      thats what im saying, hes trying.