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Lounge manager: Police area drug dealers, not bars

COLEBROOK — The manager of an Orwell tavern cited early Sunday for violating social-distancing measures said she doesn’t understand why law enforcement devotes time to catching bars violating such rules when they could be arresting drug dealers.

Wenona Herrmann, manager of the Colebrook Lounge on U.S. Route 322 near Orwell, said two undercover agents with the Ohio Investigative Unit came into the bar, and one was recording video with a cellphone.

Because it looked as if the man was taping females dancing, customers confronted the men and told them they would not let them leave “until you tell us why you are videotaping,” Herrmann said.

Their behavior was concerning to her, Herrmann said, because it also could have been someone making plans to rob the business.

Within a short time, Ashtabula County sheriff’s deputies arrived, and Herrmann learned the men were undercover officers. They left her with citations for improper conduct / disorderly activity, unsanitary conditions (fixtures, equipment, tables, counters, coolers / refrigerators, or utensils not clean or sanitary), and unsanitary conditions (alcoholic beverages not maintained in potable condition), the Ohio Investigative Unit stated.

Agents also observed patrons closely congregating and occupying consecutive seats at the bar, the investigative unit stated. Little to no social-distancing measures or physical barriers were in place, according to a news release.

Herrmann admits there was water in the bottom of a beer cooler that should not have been there and gnats in a liquor bottle.

But “sheriff’s deputies are there to fight crimes. They are not for social distancing,” she said.

The citations will be heard by the Ohio Liquor Control Commission for potential penalties, including fines and / or the suspension or revocation of liquor permits.

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