Liquor license for Babe’s, Dive Bar and a BP all at risk

After alleged shootings, fights, overdoses and over-the-counter drug sales, police and the Cincinnati Legal Department are working to have the liquor licenses of three local businesses revoked.

City Council on Wednesday voted unanimously to oppose the renewal of liquor licenses for Babe’s Cafe on Glenmore in Westwood and the BP gas station on Glenway Avenue in East Price Hill. A vote on the objection to the Dive Bar license on Short Vine Street in Corryville will likely take place later this month.

Under Ohio law, municipal governments can object to the state regarding the renewal of liquor licenses held in their jurisdictions. Tuesday’s public safety and governance committee meeting was the first step of many in the process.

After the board passes the objections, further decisions rest with the Division of Liquor Control and the State Liquor Control Board. Licensees also have the ability to appeal.

Why is the City involved in the renewal of liquor permits?

Opposing liquor licenses is one of the tools cities use to reduce crime. Cincinnati’s Pivot program, which uses data to target crime hotspots, can draw the attention of many city departments to an area. From liquor licenses to building code violations, the tactic is aimed at reducing the number of places in the city that harbor drug dealers and other criminals.

Each of the places where objections are being considered were discussed at the public safety and governance committee on Tuesday.

A killing and drugs, but new owners

The BP service station on the corner of Glenway and Warsaw in East Price Hill has been a problem for years, according to Sheila Rosenthal, president of the East Price Hill Improvement Association.

“This company, in our view, has had a greater impact than its own footprint in the community, and a negative impact,” Rosenthal said.

On December 19, 28-year-old Lacey Florence was killed at the gas station in a shooting that also injured another man. Jwan McCloud of East Price Hill was arrested in the homicide.

sergeant. Jacob Hicks of the Cincinnati Police Department said there have been 132 calls for service and seven assaults at BP since January 2021.

“It’s been a huge drain on our resources,” Hicks said.

He said a store employee was recently arrested for drug trafficking and officers found marijuana and scales on the store counter.

Attorney Chris Finney and station owners appeared before the committee on Tuesday. Finney argued that the owners were new and had just bought the BP in October.

“I don’t get involved in advocating for my client. I get involved in convincing my client not just to comply, but to become a leader in the neighborhood,” Finney said. “They’re really good people who ran clean operations.”

He said the owners have already invested $100,000 in improvements to the property on top of the $260,000 they paid. He said they also own many other gas stations and convenience stores in Ohio and Kentucky.

“They are long-term investors in Cincinnati and they are creating job opportunities for the minority community,” Finney said.

The owners, he said, are ready to work with the police and the community to make further improvements, and argued that closing the store would only bring an empty site, a few fewer jobs and a more limited selection of shops in East Price Hill. .

In the end, Finney’s pleas did not work, and the committee voted to oppose renewal.

A view of BabeÕs Café at 3389 Glenmore Avenue in Cincinnati on Wednesday, April 6, 2022. The Cincinnati City Council's Public Safety and Governance Committee has recommended opposing the renewal of a liquor license at BabeÕs Café.  According to police, in 2021 there were drug sales, six assaults, one shooting and one stabbing among 39 calls to the police department.

Cocaine Purchases and Absent Ownership

Hicks said one shooting and six assaults have occurred at Babe’s Cafe in Westwood since the start of 2021.

Along with the violence, he said officers made four “controlled purchases” of cocaine from a bartender at the Glenmore Avenue bar.

Officials noted that the owner of Babe’s rents out the bar, but doesn’t have a big presence. The owner was also not present at Tuesday’s committee meeting. Instead, the bar manager appeared alone without a lawyer. She said she only learned what was happening last week.

She said charges against the bartender were dropped, but noted he was a tenant in the building and was also evicted.

“I’m just ready to do whatever I can to make it right and make it safe for the community,” the manager said.

The license objection committee’s vote was approved unanimously.

The Cincinnati City Council Public Safety and Governance Committee recommended opposing the renewal of a liquor license at the Dive Bar in Corryville.  Police said there were 114 calls for duty in 2021 for assault, fights, robbery, drugs and disorderly people and bar crowds and 46 vice activity reports since June 2021.

Almost as many service calls as its five neighbors combined

Cincinnati Police Sgt. Jeff Meister said there were 114 calls for service to the Dive Bar in Corryville in 2021, almost as many as the 131 calls to five neighboring bars combined.

Meister said the bar had problems with fights, large crowds and after-hours drinking. He said a customer sat in the Short Vine Street establishment for some time with a handgun visible to anyone who would look into his belt, but was not confronted. Leaving the bar, this man was involved in a shooting across the street, Meister said.

There was also a fatal overdose at the bar in August, and police reported the owners failed to provide the correct video of the incident. Officers have the digital video recorder but have been unable to access the files on it. Officials said there was no needle at the scene, so police need to determine who was with the person.

“Clearly management and staff cannot control their own business,” Meister said. “I don’t know if it’s the ownership or the management itself at night. There must be some accountability. There are too many cases going on there.”

The committee postponed the vote on whether to oppose Dive Bar’s liquor license on Tuesday. Lawyer for the bar, Edward Hastie, argued that some of the problems with the presentation were misinterpreted or wrong and that he wanted more time to deal with the issue.

He said the owners turned over everything related to the overdose video and his customers only learned that they were having trouble accessing the files. Hastie said bar staff broke down the bathroom door and tried to save the person’s life.

“They did everything they were supposed to do,” he said.

Hastie said the owners, the Pedro family, have owned the building for 11 years and own four other buildings in the area and numerous other establishments in the state.

“For 10 years they haven’t had any problems,” he said.

Hastie explained that calls for service numbers could be misleading. Dive Bar is bigger than any of these other bars and is in a prominent corner, so it can be used as an address for incidents unrelated to the bar, he said.

“You have the opportunity to vote on what is effectively a death sentence for 43 jobs and a company that’s been around for 10 years,” Hastie said. “We know we have to work together, and we think it’s been 10 years since we did that and that should count for something.”

He said he spoke to the city over the summer and was told Dive Bar was not close to being considered for an objection.

“These are owners who take this seriously,” Hastie said.

The Public Safety and Governance Committee will meet again on April 19 to consider the objection to Dive Bar. If passed by the committee, it will likely be voted on by the full board on April 20.

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