WARREN - A state hearing on Warren City Council's objection to the Sunset Lounge's liquor permit has been postponed.
The hearing was to have been held Tuesday; however, attorney Dennis DiMartino, who is representing the Sunset and building owner, Joe Sankey, has asked for a continuance to allow more time to prepare for the case. A new date has not yet been scheduled.
The Ohio Department of Commerce Division of Liquor Control will conduct the hearing in Warren City Council chambers.
Warren City Council wants the state to deny renewing the Sunset Lounge's liquor license after several police calls there and after state agents found documents that show convicted felon LaShawn Ziegler owns 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.
Agents determined that the Sunset's food service operation license was issued to Ziegler, that he signed a check made out to the health inspector and that his name appears on several documents associated with the establishment. He is also listed as the owner of the business on the food establishment plan review application.
Earlier this year, DiMartino told council members that Ziegler had an interest in the Sunset Lounge at one time, but has no ownership in it. DiMartino has not returned recent telephone calls from the Tribune Chronicle.
Sherri Ramsey, who Ziegler says is a former girlfriend and with whom he owns property, manages the club. When agents entered the business in April, Ziegler's brother, Mitch E. Hall, was wearing a T-shirt with ''Security'' on it and told agents he worked there.
Liquor agents noted they found a paper showing Ziegler as owner / operator and documentation from the Internal Revenue Service assigning an employer identification number to Dream Team Promotions with Ziegler's name listed. Agents also found utility bills for the business in Ziegler's name.
''When you consider everything, it's really hard to deny he's involved,'' said Warren Councilman Gregory Bartholomew, D-4th Ward. ''The evidence says otherwise. The problem is, you can't have a convicted felon operating a bar, no matter who he is.''
Warren Councilman Vince Flask said based on the information that was last presented to council and that city officials have to go on at this time, the business should be shut down.
Likewise, Council President Bob Dean said he also remains concerned that Ziegler is still involved with the Sunset.
''The large concern is that the same issues seem to have followed him from business to business, going back 10 years or more,'' Dean said, referring to Benji Brown's and 77 Soul, both controversial clubs that Ziegler operated and are now closed. ''There are other establishments within city limits that operate with little or no problem."
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.
Sankey said many of those calls were in reference to alarm drops at the club, activities outside and traffic stops at the intersection of East Market Street and Elm Road.
''You have a certain amount of problems like that with any club.'' he said. ''I operated there for years and never had a problem. Why now?''