Bar cases to be examined

WARREN – An appeal has been made to Ohio’s Liquor Control Commission on the state’s decision to deny the liquor license renewal for Gadd’s Olympic Inn after a woman was struck in the head by a stray bullet near there last summer.

And how the city handled that case will be examined in relation to Warren’s effort to accomplish the same with another bar, the Sunset Lounge, says the attorney representing the corporation suing people connected to the Sunset.

Sunrise Inn of Warren Inc. filed the civil suit in March, claiming in part that the group engaged in a pattern of activity to ruin the restaurant that sat across Elm Road S.E.

Richard Goodman, attorney for the Sunrise Inn of Warren Inc., stopped short of drawing comparisons between the two cases, but he did say he would investigate the ”circumstances around the Olympic to be able to justify why we believe the city didn’t act properly,” with its handling of the Sunset Lounge case.

The city successfully fought an attempt by the owner of Gadd’s Olympic Inn to renew its license, but came up short in its case against the Sunset Lounge. The state overruled the city’s objection.

”It is incumbent upon us as plaintiffs to thoroughly review the circumstances before a comparison is made,” Goodman said. ”It is certainly on our list of items, to be able to make that comparison as it relates to the City of Warren.”

The state’s denial of the liquor license for Gadd’s Olympic Inn on Parkman Road S.W. was based on testimony during a hearing in December, when it was established that police responded to at least 27 calls at the bar during 2012.

Bruce D. Stevenson, superintendent of the Division of Liquor Control, wrote in his decision ”the serious nature of these calls has escalated. They frequently include(d) fights, assaults, large crowds and gunshots.”

It was on Aug. 4 that a sleeping Pamela Dial, who lives next door to the bar, was wounded by a stray bullet fired from the parking lot of the bar after it had closed.

Jackie Williams, executive director of the Liquor Control Commission, said an appeal of the decision involving Gadd’s has been filed, but a hearing date hasn’t been set.

Andrew Zellers, who represents the bar’s owner, Linda Gadd, declined to comment. Several messages seeking comment with Gadd were not returned.

The license is in safekeeping with the the Division of Liquor Control.

With the Sunset Lounge, the city initially filed to prevent the license from being renewed after police reported more than 20 calls for service at the East Market Street bar over a four-month period last year. The city then worked out an agreement with license holder Joe Sankey to have the bar closed within a few days of a 25-year-old man’s shooting death there on New Year’s Day.

Sankey agreeing to voluntarily close near the beginning of the year prevented city officials from seeking a nuisance action against the bar, which would have closed it for up to a year.

The day of the license hearing in February, the lawyer for the Sunset Lounge stipulated to three of five charges against the bar from an Aug. 2 investigation by the Ohio Department of Public Safety.

Those charges that Sunset’s and Sankey’s lawyer, Dennis DiMartino, agreed were true were failure to notify the Division of Liquor Control of a change of an ownership interest, that a felon had an interest in the liquor permit and that liquor had been purchased from an unauthorized dealer.

The stipulations were the evidence the city offered for the record in its objection to the license renewal, which the hearing officer determined was ”insufficient to sustain” the city’s objection.

The city did not present evidence of police calls or the shooting death.

Warren Law Director Gregory V. Hicks would not say if he thinks that evidence should have been presented at the hearing for Sunset. ”Second guessing is not the business we should be in,” Hicks said.

”We’re in the business of looking forward, not behind,” Hicks said. ”We will learn from that, but not second guess it.”

Hicks, who was ”flabbergasted” over the state’s decision with the Sunset’s liquor license, said the city will appeal the decision and also offer the evidence of police calls and shooting death at the appeal, which it is allowed to do, he said.

Hicks distinguished the issues involving the Sunset Lounge. One dealt with closing the bar, he said, and the other, dealt with a man having a liquor license.

He also defended how the city approached getting the bar closed. Hicks said the Sunset, had the city continued with the nuisance action, would probably still be open today because the matter still would be pending in court.

The agreement with Sankey also calls for him to give back his food service operation permit and end the lease with the management company that leased the building. Also, Hicks said, the bar’s signs are gone and the building is for sale.

”We wanted to make sure it was not going to be reopened, and it hasn’t. How more successful can you be?” Hicks said.