Warren to appeal liquor decision

WARREN – The Ohio Division of Liquor Control has overruled the city’s objection to the renewal of the liquor license for the former Sunset Lounge.

It’s a decision that Warren Law Director Gregory V. Hicks says he finds baffling, and one the city intends to appeal.

Provided Friday to the Tribune Chronicle, the ruling lets processing of the renewal application for Blue Magoo’s Ventures LLC, which operated as the now-closed club, to continue. But, it doesn’t affect the agreement between the license holder, Joseph Sankey Sr., and the city that closed the East Market Street bar in January.

That agreement ”still stands,” Hicks said, and this ruling ”has no affect on that whatsoever.”

The license remains in what’s called ”temporary closing authority” with the state, a status that allows the holder to stop operating for between 30 and 180 days. It cannot extend past 180 days, in this case July 1, except for ”good cause,” according to Ohio code.

The ruling, containing what liquor control spokesman Matt Mullins said was pretty standard language, said the city was unable to provide ”sufficient evidence” to show Blue Magoo’s is unfit to sell alcohol or that the Sunset Lounge ”adversely impacted the peace, sobriety and good order of the community.”

The city initially filed to prevent the license from being renewed after police reported more than 20 calls for service at the bar over a four-month period last year, and then worked out the agreement with Sankey to have the bar closed after a 25-year-old man was shot to death there on New Year’s Day.

Sankey agreeing to voluntarily close near the beginning of the year prevented city officials for closing the bar for up a year due to it being a nuisance.

Hicks said the ruling is ”puzzling considering the opposing party, considering Blue Magoo’s admitted to three of the most serious charges” that stemmed from an investigation of the bar by state agents last summer.

Those charges that Sunset’s and Sankey’s lawyer, Dennis DiMartino, agreed were true in February 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 the liquor had been purchased from an unauthorized dealer.

DiMartino did not want to comment on the state’s ruling.

Hicks said the order will be appealed to the Liquor Control Commission.

Mullins said no requests have been made to remove the permit from holding, and if that happens, Hicks said the city would challenge the request.