Groveport opposes liquor permit

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Groveport Village Council unanimously voted to object to the issuance of a liquor permit to the Groveport Lounge.

Council took the action at its Feb. 25 meeting as an emergency measure in order to file the village’s opposition in time to meet the requirements for a hearing about the permit before the Ohio Division of Liquor Control.

The resolution to oppose the issuance of the liquor permit listed the following reasons for the village’s objections:

•"That the applicant, Philip A. Riner, has been convicted of crimes which demonstrates that he lacks fitness to operate a liquor establishment."

•"That the Groveport Police Department and residents in the immediate vicinity (of the Groveport Lounge, 296 Main St.) have had re-occurring problems with the Groveport Lounge, including several felony and misdemeanor arrests and/or convictions and numerous complaints on an ongoing basis."

Riner said he is seeking the new liquor permit because a sought after liquor permit transfer from the establishment’s previous owner has not been worked out due to a financial dispute.

The decision on whether or not to allow the liquor permit issuance is up to the Ohio Division of Liquor Control and a hearing on the matter could be held sometime in the next few months.

The debate

"I don’t understand what the problem is," Riner told council Feb. 25. "You didn’t oppose it previously (see background information below). I don’t understand why you’re opposing it now. I run a nice clean place. I’ve got all the troublemakers out of there."

"I beg to differ," said Groveport Police Chief Gary York.

York then described to council some recent incidents officers have observed at the Groveport Lounge including: allegations that the Groveport Lounge manager was intoxicated while working at the bar; the bartender allegedly being intoxicated while working the bar; an alleged rape where the victim later decided not to pursue charges; and that officers observed beer being served in the bar even though the Groveport Lounge is currently operating without a liquor permit and should only be selling food and soft drinks.

Riner replied that no arrests were made regarding the incidents York described.

York noted liquor violations are subject to action by the Ohio Division of Liquor Control.

Background

Last August council voted 4-2 to oppose the transfer of a liquor permit for the Groveport Lounge from Combo Enterprises to Riner. However, the action to oppose the transfer failed because five votes were needed to pass the legislation as an emergency. Emergency action was necessary in order to file the village’s opposition in time to meet the requirements for a hearing before the Ohio Division of Liquor Control.

Council had attempted to block the permit transfer in August based on an increase in incidents at the bar. York reported to council at its Aug. 20 meeting that he did not support the permit transfer because, "The Groveport Police Department has experienced a significant increase in activity at the Groveport Lounge (while under its current management)…over six pages of reported incidents have been compiled since January 2007 compared to only one page for the entire year of 2006."

According to police records, the incidents include fights, disorderly conduct, drunkenness, traffic offenses, suspicious persons, assaults, and burglar alarm responses.

Riner, speaking at the Aug. 27 meeting, noted he has lived in Groveport for 36 years and said it was his intention to make the Groveport Lounge "a nice place." He  said  he spent money on improving security and noted that several of the instances on the six pages of reported incidents were for his burglar alarm going off. He said these were security system mistakes and that there have been no burglaries at the Groveport Lounge.

Regarding the other incidents listed by the police, Riner said in August, "I try to keep a lid on it, but I can’t be everywhere at all times. Once they’re (customers) out the door they’re out of my hands."

The Groveport Lounge has been a fixture, under various owners, on Main Street since the 1960s.

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