Raising the Bar

A Case of a Liquor License Lost

By AJ Wagner

A few weeks back the Dayton City Paper had a debate about liquor licenses and the City of Dayton’s request to the Ohio Liquor Control Commission not to renew the licenses of five different bars.  This week, Ohio’s Tenth District Court of Appeals in Columbus weighed in on the subject with the kind of authority that could doom the five bars in question.

Jeffrey Allen Douglas operated a bar and grill known as Jeff’s Place in Columbus. The real estate at that location is owned by Edward M. Douglas (“Mr. Douglas”), the father of appellant.

The Columbus City Council passed a resolution objecting to the 2010-2011 renewal of the liquor permit at Jeff’s Place. The objection was based upon legal grounds set forth in R.C. 4303.292.

A hearing was held at which the following witnesses testified: Detective Allen Brown and Officer Robert C. Vass, both employees of the Columbus Police; and Edward Douglas.

Detective Brown said there were 130 dispatched runs to Jeff’s Place, which he classified as “an extremely high number” as well as a “burden on the police resources.” The reasons for the runs spanned various categories, including traffic accidents, traffic violations, domestic violence disturbances, suspicious persons, stolen vehicles, shots fired, calls to report persons with guns, shootings, narcotics activity and robberies. In addition, Detective Brown testified he participated in a nuisance abatement group with the Columbus Department of Health, which inspected premises for violations and documented health and safety violations.

Officer Vass testified that Jeff’s Place has always had its problems, but in the past two-to-two and one-half years, the establishment has become a cause for concern for the officers working in that precinct, as well as the citizens in the area. Officer Vass further acknowledged that of all the bars in precinct five, Jeff’s Place was the most problematic. Officer Vass also testified to the presence of gang members at Jeff’s Place.

Mr. Douglas testified that crime in precinct five and in the neighborhood around Jeff’s Place has increased in the last two or three years. Mr. Douglas testified all of the patrons at the club have guns in their pockets and he did not know what to do about it besides call the police. He testified that he would remove patrons from the bar he suspected were gang members, but sometimes those patrons would jump the fence and re-enter the bar. Mr. Douglas acknowledged he did not try to increase the presence of security by either adding special duty police officers or additional security in the parking lot or inside the establishment.

After a hearing, the license renewal was denied for the following reasons: (1) the place for which the permit is sought is so located with respect to the neighborhood that substantial interference with public decency, sobriety, peace or good order would result from the issuance and operation of the permit; (2) the applicant has shown a disregard for the laws, regulations or local ordinances of the state and will operate the permit business in a manner which demonstrates a disregard for said laws, regulations or ordinances; (3) the permit location does not conform to applicable building, safety or health requirements; and (4) for good cause.

At the Court of Appeals, Edwards made several arguments to support his position for renewal of the license. First, he disputed the conclusion that the renewal of the permit license would substantially interfere with the public decency, sobriety, peace or good order of the neighborhood, arguing the neighborhood is not residential, the operation of the establishment has very little impact on an already crime-ridden area and there is no nexus between the environmental conditions and appellant’s operation of the business.

The Court said, “A permit holder is entitled to a renewal, pursuant to R.C. 4303.271, unless good cause exists to reject the renewal application. Pursuant to R.C. 4303.292(A)(2)(c), the division of liquor control may refuse to issue, transfer, or renew a retail permit if it finds ‘[t]hat the place for which the permit is sought * * * [i]s so located with respect to the neighborhood that substantial interference with public decency, sobriety, peace or good order would result from the issuance, renewal, transfer of location or transfer of ownership of the permit and operation under it by the applicant.’ . . . A renewal application is properly rejected under R.C. 4303.292(A)(2)(c), even if the permit holder’s operation does not per see cause the illicit activity, because there can be good cause to reject the permit application where it constitutes a breeding ground for a deleterious environment. ”

The Court also found that, although in an industrial area, the bar was within 500 feet of a house and other nearby residences.  Further, the Court noted the violations of health codes.

Last call.

(Taken from Douglas v. Ohio Liquor Control Comm., 2012-Ohio-2218.)

Disclaimer: The content herein is for entertainment and information only. Do not use this as a legal consultation. Every situation has different nuances that can affect the outcome and laws change without notice. If you’re in a situation that calls for legal advice, get a lawyer. You represent yourself at your own risk. The author, the Dayton City Paper and its affiliates shall have no liability stemming from your use of the information contained herein.

A.J. Wagner is an attorney with the law firm of Flanagan, Lieberman, Hoffman and Swaim at 15 W. Fourth Street in Dayton. A.J. and his firm would be glad to help you with all of your legal needs. You can reach A.J. at (937) 223-5200 or at AJWagner@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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A.J. Wagner is an attorney with the law firm of Flanagan, Lieberman, Hoffman and Swaim at 15 W. Fourth Street in Dayton. A.J. and his firm would be glad to help you with all of your legal needs. You can reach A.J. at (937) 223-5200 or at AJWagner@DaytonCityPaper.com.

2 Responses to “Raising the Bar” Subscribe

  1. Fred Laine May 30, 2012 at 9:34 pm #

    I can’t believe Jeff’s Place lost its license. That was one of the first places I went to when I moved to the Columbus area a couple years ago, and though I didn’t really care for it, I would never have expected that it could possibly be such a hotspot for incidents.

  2. Pam MillerHoward May 7, 2013 at 2:06 pm #

    Bars and restaurants serving alcohol, responsibly run, often do not negatively impact a neighborhood; they can even be an asset. But bars and liquor establishments run irresponsibly can make life miserable, not just for the residences within proximity, but for an entire neighborhood. One of my first forays into community service was started when a group of neighbors came to our council meeting asking for help with a bad establishment, that had associated crime. After a 3 year battle, with average citizens enduring frivolous lawsuits, we were successful and saw it closed. South Park did it again when a different bar in the 1990’s had knife and gun fights.Again we prevailed, even though the owner was a powerful character(albeit in prison for racketeering). Now that EXACT location is a pizza place with a selection of alcoholic drinks. Run RESPONSIBLY, it is an asset and popular gathering place. Since then, I have helped many neighborhoods get liquor removal issues on the ballot or work for their passage. It is a difficult road to navigate all the rules and appeals, but in each instance, the neighborhood was eventually successful.This judicial decision is welcome news for neighborhoods who care about their safety and quality of life.

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