Sunset license hearing slated

WARREN – A hearing on City Council’s objection to the liquor license held by Blue Magoo’s Ventures LLC., commonly known as Sunset Lounge, is tentatively scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Feb. 7, according to a spokesman with the Ohio Department of Commerce Division of Liquor Control.

“It likely will be a teleconference,” Matt Mullins said on Monday. “Our hearing officer will remain in Columbus. Any evidence needed will be sent to the hearing officer prior to the meeting.”

The hearing is a result of the original objection filed by city council in August to the renewal of the liquor license. It is not in connection with the violence that led to the death of Cory Blackwell on New Year’s Day, or the November shooting death of Marco Dukes Sr. on Elm Court near the bar.

The city administration and Joe Sankey Jr., owner of the 480 E. Market St. S.E. business, last week came to an agreement to have the liquor license surrendered to the Ohio Division of Liquor Control for up to 180 days. The city in exchange agreed not to seek a nuisance abatement that would close the business for 365 days.

“The permit holder is able to ask to have the liquor license released as part of a sale,” Mullins said. “In that case, we would contact the council or the community in which the license holder is located in order to give them an opportunity to object.

“Unless the department is contacted by representatives of the council removing the original objection, there likely will be a hearing,” Mullins said.

Safety-Service Director Enzo Cantalamessa last week emphasized that the administration neither would do anything to promote continuance nor ask for a further delay. Cantalamessa said if a hearing is held, witnesses will be available to testify.

Councilman Greg Bartholomew, D-4th Ward, said he is pleased the division of liquor control still plans to have the hearing on council’s original objection to the license renewal.

“I would like to see it closed,” Bartholomew, who also owns a downtown business, said.

Tom Crowley, owner of Gene’s Jewelers on North Park Avenue, told Mayor Doug Franklin during a meeting in council chamber’s on Monday that he appreciates the city’s quick response in getting an agreement to close the Sunset Lounge, because the image of increased violence in the downtown area is affecting his business.

Council objected to the renewal of the Sunset Lounge’s liquor license after police reported more than 20 call for services calls during a four month period and after state investigators found documents that indicated convicted felon LaShawn Ziegler had ownership in the business.

In August, agents from the Ohio Department of Public Safety inspected the Sunset after a complaint was made alleging “Hidden Ownership.” Agents found that Ziegler had been participating in the business despite terms of his probation that he not enter liquor establishments.