November 23, 2014

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New owner hopes new atmosphere will help Lorain bar shed rowdy image

Asa Knowles is the owner of Dart's Lounge in Lorain, formerly known as Gil's International Lounge. KRISTIN BAUER / CHRONICLE

Asa Knowles is the owner of Dart’s Lounge in Lorain, formerly known as Gil’s International Lounge. KRISTIN BAUER / CHRONICLE

LORAIN — Gil’s International Lounge now is the Dart Lounge. The bar’s new owner says more than the name has changed.

Asa Knowles, 65, of Lorain, said Tuesday he’s aware of the history of Gil’s. Police frequently were called to the bar to break up fights since it opened in 1989. The bar, at 1840 E. 28th St., was the scene of a 2004 murder and two stabbings last year. City Council members tried to get the bar’s liquor permit revoked last year.

Besides putting in new flooring and opening a kitchen, Knowles said he’s installed nine surveillance cameras in and around the bar, which he took over in October. Gangster rap is no longer played. Knowles said he plans to have a karaoke contest in September and live blues and jazz in October.

“I’m trying to create an atmosphere here that’s going to allow people to come out, enjoy themselves and go home at a decent time, which is totally opposite of what it used to be before I bought the bar,” he said.

Police last year recommended to Council that it ask the Ohio Department of Commerce’s Division of Liquor Control to revoke the permit due to frequent calls to the bar. But police have abandoned revocation efforts.

Sgt. Michael Failing, the department’s crime analysis and intelligence officer, wrote in a Tuesday email that there has been “significant improvement” at the bar since Knowles took it over. Besides installing cameras, Failing wrote that Knowles has banned patrons who don’t follow the rules and pursued criminal charges against one patron. Failing said the changes have reduced calls to the bar and increased patron safety.

“The goal of liquor license objections was not to punish owners, but to encourage responsible ownership so the citizens of Lorain could feel safe and secure while enjoying a night out,” Failing said. “The new direction in which Knowles was operating the bar seemed to coincide with the direction of the Lorain Police Department.”

The division at a June 19 hearing overruled the renewal objection, said Matt Mullins, a division spokesman. Mullins wrote in an email that the decision was due to no one from Council appearing at the hearing or sending written complaints.

However, Councilman Dan Given, D-at large, said at Monday’s meeting that Council never had a chance to object. He said police and Law Director Pat Riley never informed Council that a hearing was occurring.

“You really don’t care what Council thinks,” Given told Riley, who denied the accusation.

Councilman Tony Richardson, D-at large, said after the meeting that he’s still concerned about the bar despite the changes.

“If you’re attracting the same clientele, then we’re going to have some of the same problems we’ve had over the past years,” he said.

Knowles said he understands the skepticism and can’t promise there will never be trouble.

“Anybody can act the fool at any time,” he said. “I can’t guarantee that it won’t happen, but I’m trying to create an atmosphere to where it won’t happen.”

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.


  • golfingirl

    Stay away…..stay alive!

    Lets face it…..a bar on 28th street in Lorain will not attract family diners.

    • Larry Crnobrnja

      Maybe not your family, but possibly others. There are many good people in South Lorain looking to reclaim their neighborhood. More power to them. It looks like Mr Knowles is doing the right thing. I hope it works out for him and everyone.

      • golfingirl

        Easy to say when you live hundreds of miles away!

        If you lived nearby, would you and Cheryl dine there?

        I hope it does succeed, but I am doubtful, given the area. Isn’t the “Grown & Sexy Lounge” right down the street?

        Bottom line is the area does not lend itself to “family activities.”

        I suggest next time you are in town, you take your family there, and let me know what you think?

        • Larry Crnobrnja

          I’m not certain we would dine ANYWHERE in Lorain. LOL

          I’ll say it again, there are a lot of great people living in South Lorain and the adjoining areas. I was born and raised in South Lorain and worked on 28th Street for 20+ years. The area will only recover through the efforts of good people. Personally, I hope it does.

          LORAIN STRONG!

          • golfingirl

            I agree.

            Back in the day of City Cigar, Fatty’s, Milt’s (the barber), the Slovenian Home, Bill’s Donut Shop ….on and on.

            The area will never recover until the crime goes away. The punks that have moved in have destroyed it for everyone.

            Back in those days, if a punk got out of hand, the older men in that area would set them straight real quick. No need to call the police.

            That generation is now gone and the results are obvious.

          • Larry Crnobrnja

            They say back 15 years ago, nobody would go downtown in Greenville, SC because of the crime and rundown buildings. Watch this video and tell me if you can believe it.

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZqj5FrbyJY

          • jz

            Nice video. I have been to Charleston S.C., but, only made it to the ocean. Did not see “Old Charleston”.

          • Larry Crnobrnja

            Downtown Charles Towne is a pretty cool place to visit if you’re into history. And there are plenty of great places to eat! Greenville isn’t as big and doesn’t have the ocean, but it is the gem of the Upstate.

            Cheers.

  • oldruss

    Time will tell whether this place has cleaned up its act or not. With all the changes, I was disappointed that the new owner did not say anything about hiring off-duty LPD or other area police officers to work as security at this bar. Even off-duty, police officers have arrest powers, and having two or three of them both inside and outside this establishment would do a great deal to improve the behavior of its customers.

  • robertloggia16

    Best of luck… Lorain County needs a solid cleansing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pat.holbrook.90 Pat Holbrook

    Lip stick on a pig, a sugar coated turd, or a 28th street bar with a new name. One of these is not like the other. nope all the same

  • Bill Love

    Good luck sir hope it works out for you nice to see someone try to improve the city of lorain there are few of you out there

  • Otter

    Wishing Mr. Knowles much success! It’s nice to finally read about someone who is trying to make positive changes.