Liquor permit holder wants more time

WARREN – The man who owns the building that once was the Sunset Lounge and holds the permit that let alcohol be served there wants the state to give him more time to remain closed.

Joe Sankey Jr. has asked the Ohio Division of Liquor Control to keep for another 180 days the liquor permit in what’s called ”temporary closing authority,” because he’s in the process of selling the building, contents and the land the building sits on, according to a letter he provided the state.

Sankey put the permit on the shelf temporarily after he voluntarily closed the bar in downtown Warren in January following a fatal shooting there during a New Year’s celebration. The status lets the permit holder stop operating for up to 180 days.

The time expired July 1, so now, Sankey has asked for 180 more days as he continues to try to find a buyer, according to a letter he sent the state Wednesday.

Sankey also wrote that as soon as he sells, he intends to put the permit into ”safekeeping,” which essentially is escrow for the permit.

Matt Mullins, spokesman for the Liquor Control, said the division has not made a determination on Sankey’s extension request.

Meanwhile, the building remains for sale. There was an indication in April that a woman who ran a Mexican restaurant in the Cleveland area had some interest in doing the same at the 480 E. Market St. building.

She provided the East Market Street address for Rodrigo’s Mexican Bar and Grill LLC on documents filed with Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s Office, but a spokesman for Husted said that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s where the business would be located.

Matt McClellan said Ohio law only requires when an LLC (limited liability corporation) is formed that a statutory agent and address for that statutory agent be filed with his office and that address may not match the physical location of the business.

Sankey closed the bar a few days after the shooting as part of an agreement with the city of Warren, which had been trying to block the renewal of the bar’s liquor permit. The city was unsuccessful and filed an appeal with Ohio’s Liquor Control Commission.

Sankey also faces liquor permit violations before the commission that resulted from an inspection of the bar in August 2012, when state agents, acting on a complaint of ”hidden ownership,” uncovered five violations against the license holder and others associated with the bar.

A hearing on the license violations is July 11. A hearing on the city’s appeal has not been set. They are separate cases.