July 31, 2014

Elyria
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Cotton Club owners plead case before liquor control board

Cotton Club owner Anthony Barnhill poses in the East 28th Street bar earlier this year. Barnhill is fighting to keep the bar's liquor permit. CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO

Cotton Club owner Anthony Barnhill poses in the East 28th Street bar earlier this year. Barnhill is fighting to keep the bar’s liquor permit. CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO

LORAIN — One fact was not disputed Tuesday as the Lorain Police Department and owners of the Cotton Club hashed out the fate of the establishment’s state-issued liquor permits.

Everyone agreed that the bar is in the middle of a gang- and crime-infested neighborhood. East 28th Street is a known hotspot for drugs and violence and for many years has served as the backdrop for crime.

But that’s where the similarities ended, as two very different stories were told during a hearing of the state Division of Liquor Control.

Police and city officials, who are against permit renewal, argue owners Antoinette and Anthony Barnhill are adding to the area’s problems by allowing criminals and gang members into their bar and not aiding police.

“They have had significant problems with violence and gang members frequenting their bar, so much so they needed to hire professional security officers,” said assistant law director R.J. Budway. “We can only conclude they can’t control the problems in the bar and shouldn’t have a liquor license at this establishment. The bar is hurting the health, safety and welfare of the neighborhood.”

But the Barnhills paint a different picture, one where police officers have shirked the responsibility of cleaning up the area and are not willing to help business owners find viable solutions in the midst of so much crime.

“We did not start this business with the idea of coming in and causing problems,” Antoinette Barnhill said. “We’re entrepreneurs that just want to have something to leave our kids, but we’re in this city that is full of so much mess.”

The near 90-minute hearing was held at the Lorain County Job and Family Service building with attorney James Bally serving as the hearing officer via a video conference feed. Bally will present a recommendation to agency Superintendent Bruce Stevenson, who will ultimately decide on the permits.

Going after a bar’s liquor permit is often the best way for a city to close a place they perceive as a trouble spot. Elyria has successfully done the same with several bars in its downtown, namely the Toy Box Night Club and Uncle Vic’s Night Club.

But the Barnhills do not want their bar to be the latest adult establishment shuttered in Lorain County.

“A bar owner cannot watch what an idiot does when they leave a bar,” said Anthony Barnhill.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @LisaRobersonCT.

  • Bob Sweatt

    This isn’t fair for the bar owners. It sound to me that they are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

  • zdubb78

    A bar owner and his bar are only as good as its patrons. Plain & Simple
    He lets dirtballs in his place……he gets treated like a ditball
    He says stuff only happened out front of his bar…………DUHHHHHHHHHH
    U think they randomly stop there everytime they want to shoot someone or fight!
    COME ON MAN!

  • zdubb78

    “A bar owner cannot watch what an idiot does when they leave a bar,” said Anthony Barnhill.
    If you don’t let IDIOTS in the bar….then you don’t have to worry about watching them when they leave……….
    But he cant do that…………….too much drug money to spend at his bar!
    CLOSE HIS A$$ DOWN

  • ustavich

    black bars have black problems, blacks shoot each other, blacks infest neighborhoods with drugs, black bars bring blacks together, blacks do what they do

    • TommyK

      very racist post!!!

      • ken

        I think you mean very TRUE post!!!

        • TommyK

          I meant very RACIST!!

          • ken

            LIKE IT OR NOT FACE THE FACTS!!!!!

    • TommyK

      Is it fair to say that ‘white bars have white problems, whites shoot each other, whites infest with drugs, white bars bring whites together, whites do what they do’ ? and it not be considered a racist post?

      • Razorback Twou

        No, just untrue.

        • TommyK

          believe what you want,

  • not me again

    shuter down

  • not me again

    between a rock and a hard place? lol a crack rock and jail?

  • Mark B

    If they really wanted to run a clean bar they would relocate to a nicer area . If you run a business in the sewer , expect sewer rats.

  • Brandy Lynn

    I would say all Lorain bars should be shut down, but then again, I don’t want those a-holes coming to other cities’ bars.

  • Robert Taylor

    This approach is counter intuitive , the owners could continue to allow the same clientele in the door while the lorain police post a car or two across the street. They can arrest whoever’s causing problems. If the ratio of criminals patronizing this establishment is so high, why would you want them disbanded? I’ll bet none of these guys will consider going to church because this bar can no longer serve drinks. They will live the same exact way they always have it will just move to another location and become more sporadic.

  • John Boy

    Everyone admits the bar is in the middle of a gang and crime infested neighborhood, but the assistant law director states “we can only conclude they can’t control the problem in the bar and shouldn’t have a liquor license”.
    So using that logic what should happen to the LPD and the City of Lorain Law Department? They have the overall responsibility of keeping the city crime and gang free don’t they?

  • Zen Grouch

    “Police and city officials, who are against permit renewal, argue owners
    Antoinette and Anthony Barnhill are adding to the area’s problems by
    allowing criminals and gang members into their bar and not aiding
    police.”

    So, the cops want to shut the bar down because they perceive the owners as being inactive?!

    I thought they were suppose to punish people for *actively* breaking the laws, rather than take the easy and cheesy way out and shut ‘em down because they do business in a bad neighborhood…

    …a neighborhood that’s bad because of “inactivity” on the part of the cops perhaps?

  • ustavich

    I say put a huge fence with a one way gate around the damn place, give the black thugs free guns, dope and alcohol and just bring in the body transport vans a couple days a week, maybe it will keep them from coming to my neighborhood to try their home invasions

  • donmega

    Hell im black an dont go to black bars,im not looking for trouble or to get shot.