The Sunset Lounge is closed. That is good news, but I have to wonder why it took two murders connected to the club to finally accomplish this, and why the closing may be just temporary.
There have been problems associated with Sunset dating back to its opening in May of last year, including 20 calls for service received by the Warren City Police between May and August .
In July, LaShawn Zeigler was found guilty of a probation violation. In 2010, Zeigler was given 5 years probation after pleading guilty to receiving stolen property, tampering with records, falsification, marijuana possession and marijuana trafficking. A condition of his probation stated that he was not to enter a liquor establishment.
Zeigler has a history of being associated with problem bars. In 2004, Ziegler's 77 Soul on Youngstown Road was closed by city officials. The bar had been visited frequently by police.
In 2008, another bar owned by Zeigler, Benji Brown's, as well as his after-hours club there were labeled nuisances and closed by the city.
In August, agents from the Ohio Department of Public Safety, acting on a complaint of ''Hidden Ownership'' inspected the Sunset Lounge. They found that Zeigler had been participating in the business. Among the evidence was that the employer identification number application for the club was made by Dream Team Promotions and had Zeigler's name listed.
Although Zeigler and his attorney claim that he no longer has ownership in the Sunset Lounge, the process had begun to deny renewal of the establishment's liquor license.
The state liquor hearing was delayed twice, including once in October at the request of the city Law Director's Office. This raises some questions for me. I would think that closing a club with a history like the Sunset Lounge's owned by someone with a history like Zeigler would be a priority for the city Law Director's office.
City Law Director Greg Hicks rents space for his private law practice from bail bondsman Robert Cregar. This in and of itself is probably a conflict of interest although Hicks insists that it isn't.
I have to wonder, though, about the fact that the owner of the building where the Sunset Lounge was housed is Joseph Sankey who happened to be employed by Cregar. Additionally, Cregar owns the Elm Court property where a major gun battle resulted in the death of drug dealer Marco Dukes, Jr. in November. That property was the business address of Dream Team Productions, owned by LaShawn Zeigler.
Cregar also owns the property where Zeigler's former bar Benji Brown's was located. Zeigler has called Cregar a ''business mentor,'' and Cregar has bonded both Dukes and Zeigler out of jail. Dukes is also related to Zeigler's business partner, Anthony Dukes. Zeigler and Cregar insist that the connections are simply coincidences.
Finally, after the New Year's Day murder at the Sunset Lounge, the club was closed temporarily. It was too little, too late.
So now we have landlords of locations where two murders have taken place connected to each other and to a convicted felon who has owned problem bars in the past. We have a law director, whose office delayed closing the club where a murder has now taken place, who is connected to one of those landlords.
I don't know if Greg Hicks delayed the hearing on the Sunset Lounge because of his connection to Cregar, because his office is inept, or because he just doesn't care. I do know that someone was murdered in a place that should be shut down permanently.
I also know that there are innocent people who live and work near the violence that seems to plague Warren, and it looks like no one is doing anything about it. There are good people in Warren, and they deserve better than this.
Yoder is a West Farmington resident. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.