Dayton liquor permit cases drag on

Two bars that city objected to in April won’t have hearings until October

Nearly five months after the city of Dayton objected to liquor license renewals for four bars, the state liquor control board said hearings for two of those bars won’t be held until October.

Of the four bars in question, The Vault, at 20 N. Jefferson St. downtown, and Loch Nez, at 752 Huffman Ave. in East Dayton, have already closed. Webster Station and Club Aquarius, which sit two blocks apart on East Third and East Second streets downtown, remain open.

Matt Mullins, spokesman for the Ohio Division of Liquor Control, said hearings were scheduled for both Webster Station and Club Aquarius Aug. 22, but both were continued (delayed). Webster Station also had a hearing continued on June 26.

“We usually only will grant one or maybe two continuances,” Mullins said. “I think we’ve pretty much exhausted that with these cases, so we’re most likely to go forward with the hearing in October.”

Webster Station owners declined to comment for this story.

Wayne Kelley, owner of Club Aquarius, said he doesn’t understand why the city continues to object to his liquor permit. While the city documented 25 crime reports each for Vault and Webster Station from 2011 through March 8, 2013 (including shootings at each site), the city noted only four crime reports at Club Aquarius in that time.

City Law Director John Danish said Aquarius’ hiring of two former managers of the troubled Club Envy was the primary reason for the city’s objection. Club Envy was shut down in 2012 after a fatal shooting and other crime problems.

Dayton Police Lt. Kenneth Beall also mentioned liquor violations at Aquarius. One of the new Aquarius managers was arrested on a misdemeanor charge in February for obstructing a police inspection of the bar.

“For eight months now, we’ve had no issues,” Kelley said Friday. “They’ve changed the clientele. It’s running good. But the police are harassing us right now.”

Beall said some bars “will lay low a little bit while the heat is on. … There’s a lot of really positive development downtown and we want that to continue uninterrupted by any of these places.”

The Vault was officially closed in July, when a Montgomery County Common Pleas Court Magistrate granted an injunction closing the bar because of repeated crime complaints and two deaths.

Loch Nez closed April 30 as part of an agreement between owner Sheryl Williams, the state Liquor Control Commission and the city of Dayton, where Williams handed over her liquor license for “safekeeping.” That means Williams could apply later to transfer the permit out of the city of Dayton. She could not be reached for comment Friday.

Neighbors had varying opinions of Loch Nez, which is in the middle of a largely residential neighborhood.

Burkhardt/Springfield Neighborhood Association President Lodia Furnas, who lives directly across the street from Loch Nez, said the bar was a constant source of noise and crime, adding that she led the effort to shut it down. But Aaron Bailey, who lives a block east on Huffman, called the bar “a safe, comfortable place” that had good food and few incidents.

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