LORAIN — Less than two years after opening, the Cotton Club is scheduled to close April 20 when its liquor permit expires due to rowdiness inside and around the bar.
In a March 21 letter to club owner Antoinette Daniels Barnhill, Ohio Division of Liquor Control superintendent Bruce Stevenson rejected the permit renewal. Stevenson noted police said they responded to 72 calls to the club at 1766 E. 28th St. between Oct. 4, 2012, when the bar opened, and Oct. 20, 2013.
“The calls included fights, gunshots, disorderly conduct, assaults and other unsavory actions such as public urination and smoking ban violations,” Stevenson wrote.
Among the incidents:
- Dec. 9, 2012: Customer Corey Baker was shot in the legs at the bar after a man, unhappy over paying a cover charge, fired three shots. Baker in December sued Barnhill over the shooting.
- Jan. 1, 2013: Desmen Noble fought at the club and shots were fired outside the club. About 15 minutes later, Noble fatally shot Herman Seagers about 1.6 miles away at the former Liberty Gas Station, 2436 Broadway. Noble pleaded guilty to murder in October and is serving 18 years to life.
- March 10, 2013: Shots are fired in the bar parking lot.
Anthony Barnill, Antoinette Barnhill’s husband and the bar manager, said Monday they don’t plan to appeal the rejection. However, he disputed some of the division’s assertions.
Stevenson’s letter incorrectly said the gas station where Seagers was killed — now High Point Gas — is across the street from the bar.
Barnhill, who hired off-duty Cleveland police to provide security, said he has tried to run a safe establishment and cooperate with police. When City Council in August recommended the division close the club, several people spoke on behalf of Barnwell and the club.
They said Barnwell buys bicycles for needy children at Christmas, helps pay funeral expenses for poor people and feeds hungry people. Most of the club’s customers are black and some have said the heavy police presence outside the club is intimidating and a form of racial profiling.
Police Chief Cel Rivera said the club is a chronic offender.
“If we have bars that operate in this manner, we are going to continue to do what we do,” Rivera said.
Barnwell said the vast majority of his customers are law-abiding and the club has been unfairly judged by the actions of a few violent customers. Barnwell said city officials and police scapegoated him.
“When the city’s against you, they’re going to make it hard on you,” he said. “You can’t survive in this town.”