WARREN - The city will have its opportunity next month to argue its case against the renewal of the liquor license for the Sunset Lounge.
City council members have publicly voiced concerns about the club, formerly Blue Magoo's Tap and Grill, since it opened at 480 E. Market St. in May. Council also objects to the renewal of the liquor permit for Gadd's Olympic Inn., 1129 Parkman Road N.W. The state liquor control board must now decide whether to accept the city's recommendation to deny the renewals.
A hearing with the Department of Commerce Division of Liquor Control to address the Sunset Lounge liquor license is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Dec. 11 in Warren City Council Chambers. A hearing for renewal of the Olympic's liquor license is pending.
"It will be good to have this resolved," said Councilman Gregory Bartholomew, D-4th Ward.
City officials have said they are concerned about both clubs because of illegal activities associated with them.
"There have been so many problems at these places," Bartholomew said. "There were a lot of reports of fights at the Olympic and then with the shooting there, I think that was the last straw. The biggest factor for the Sunset is having a convicted felon who has ownership there."
City officials have said they don't believe LaShawn Ziegler's claims that he hasn't been participating in the operation of the Sunset. Ziegler, 40, of Warren, was sentenced to five years' probation in April 2010 after pleading guilty to receiving stolen property, tampering with records, falsification, marijuana possession and marijuana trafficking.
Ziegler previously ran two controversial taverns, both of which were shut down by the city. His nightclub 77 Soul on Youngstown Road was closed for building violations. Later, Ziegler ran Benji Brown's Bar and Grill on North Park Avenue, which was raided in April 2008 and found to be operating with no liquor permit.
Warren police received more than 20 calls for service to the Sunset from May through August in reference to fights, vehicle theft, a traffic accident, suspicious vehicles and people, disturbances and alarms, according to reports.
Earlier this year, attorney Dennis DiMartino told council members that Ziegler had previously had an interest in the Sunset Lounge, but has no ownership in it. DiMartino did not return a telephone call from a Tribune Chronicle reporter.
On Thursday, Ziegler, when reached by telephone, said he has no ownership in the Sunset and that Joe Sankey, whom he has known for years, hired Ziegler's company Dream Team Promotions and Managment Consultants to help him get the Sunset up and running.
However, Ziegler explained that after he was arrested earlier this year while on probation he was told he could not work at the club. He said previously he assumed it would be OK to work at the club as long as he didn't have ownership in any liquor license.
"So I walked away," he said.
City officials have also expressed concerns about calls police have received in reference to Olympic. Police believe the gunshot that hit Pamela Dial, 43, was fired from the parking lot at The Olympic. At the time, Dial lived in a house next door.
The tavern has remained closed since just after the shooting took place.