It was a bad week to be a south campus bar owner.Included in those last days of March and the first days of April 1996 were a liquor enforcement sweep that nailed three south campus bars, a fire that destroyed the bars Papa Joe`s and Off Campus, and a plan unveiled by Campus Partners to remake the area that didn`t include any of the existing bars in the equation.If the south campus drinking scene died when Campus Partners was formed in January 1995, that chain of events effectively drove the nail in the coffin.Several weeks later, troubled bars Coeds and B.K. Flyers were denied liquor license renewals. They would stay open a few more months before fading into High Street lore.The events of 1996 were the largest recent push to crack down on bar owners and patrons who broke the law. Liquor enforcement agents continue to patrol the area actively to this day.
Liquor enforcement polices bars
In Ohio, government regulation of alcohol is split into three entities. Liquor enforcement is the law enforcement arm, patrolling bars and giving citations. Liquor control handles liquor license applications and renewals, and it can fine owners or suspend and revoke their licenses. A three-member liquor commission, appointed by the governor, acts as a court in which bar owners can contest fines and suspensions or revocations of their licenses.Steve Hasserman, agent in charge of the area`s liquor enforcement division, said patrols of bars are normally complaint-driven. Complaints run high in the south campus area, Hasserman said. Some complaints often come through anonymous phone calls, while others are from law enforcement and community leaders. Hasserman is a member of Campus Partners` safety board, which brings together local public safety officials and Ohio State officials.He said the meeting is an arena for OSU officials to vent frustration about bars.”If there`s a problem in a certain establishment, I hear about it then,” he said.Bill Hall, who chairs the committee and is OSU assistant vice president of housing, food services and event centers, said a specific area isn`t targeted at the meetings.”It`s not Ãlet`s focus on those bars and find a way to close them down,`” Hall said.Hasserman said there was a time when many of the south campus bars were troubled and checked on regularly. He said the law enforcement presence there has decreased, partly because less attention was paid to south campus in the last year. A team of two of Hasserman`s agents, usually in plain clothes, comes to the campus area on random nights and checks for liquor law violations in campus bars. For big events, like home football games, there can be up to 18 agents around campus.
South campus bar owners think they are targeted
Only campus bars are treated with strict enforcement from liquor enforcement, saidBrad Miller, owner of Maxwell`s bar. He said they only serve one drink per I.D. at his bar.”It doesn`t matter if a person has shown their I.D. 10 times, the 11th they must show it again,” Miller said.The first three weeks of every quarter, liquor enforcement visits Maxwell`s several nights a week. He is unaware of when the visits will happen, he said.John Massiamiani, owner of Panini`s Bar & Grille, said liquor enforcement comes twice a month, sometimes more. He said they go to booths and check I.D.s.”We check I.D.s at the bar, but when you serve someone at the bar and they bring it back to their friend at the booth, it`s hard to monitor that sort of thing,” he said.He thinks the south campus area is targeted more than others by police and liquor enforcement.”You don`t see them on north campus as much,” he said.Although his bar serves mostly an older crowd, liquor enforcement`s regular visits hurt business, he said.He said he gets constant complaints from law enforcement and local officials.”As long as the phone keeps ringing, we have an obligation (to patrol bars),” he said. “If they`re not breaking the law, they wouldn`t even know we were there.”
Area has history of many liquor violations
Patty Haskins, spokesperson for the department of liquor control, said liquor permits have to be renewed annually. If a business has too many violations, her department can recommend against renewal. The three-member commission decides whether any action on a license or fine stands. Haskins said in cases of underage sale or consumption, the person involved is subpoenaed to appear before the commission. Because these cases often involve college students who move around, she said they often do not show up and the case must be terminated.Haskins provided a history of liquor violations in the last five years of 10 south campus addresses within the Campus Partners` proposed Gateway project with current or past liquor permits. They include four bars currently operating, one carry-out, two bars closed by liquor violations, one bar closed because of tax problems and one bar closed in anticipation of the project.Of five bars still running, Maxwell`s has the most reports of violations, with 22 since February 1993. Of those, 12 involved the sale to or consumption of alcohol by underage people.Maxwell`s has paid $2,400 in fines and had its license suspended several times for a total of 25 days. Its license renewal was rejected once in 1995, but the ruling was overruled by the commission.Of the four other bars:
- Panini`s: Since September 1995, seven violations reported, four involving sale to or consumption by an underage person. $600 in total fines.
- Skully`s: Since October 1994, one violation, one underage. $200 in total fines.
- Sloopy`s: Since June 1995, four violations, one underage. $500 in total fines.
- Not Al`s Rockers: Since February 1993, four violations, one underage. It had a five day suspension due to an unpaid $500 fine in 1993.
The one carry out, Buckeye Carryout, has had seven violations reported since April 1993, all involving sales to underage customers. The violations have resulted in $2,700 in total fines.B.W.-3`s had a completely clean record, but according to a sign in their window they were closed in anticipation of the Gateway project. Building owner Pete Mattis said the owners wanted to expand, but because of an uncertain future they decided it was best to close down and wait to see what happens.
Two bars had licenses revoked
The remaining three records involved bars whose licenses were revoked or transfer rejected due to violations.According to letters sent by the commission to the owners of Coeds and B.K. Flyers, the bars` licenses were revoked for operating in disregard of the law and renewal would interfere with “public decency, sobriety, peace or good order” of the neighborhood.From November 1993 to March 1996, B.K Flyers incurred 20 violations, nine involving underage sale or consumption. The violations included several for the sale of drugs in the bar, and one for solid debris and insects in bottles.In the letter, the commission said from Oct. 1, 1994 to Feb. 29, 1996, Columbus police arrested 116 bar patrons for various crimes, including assault and weapon charges. It said gang members frequented the bar and that it was “so crowded and potentially dangerous that at least four to six officers enter the premises at any one time to respond to incidents.”At Coeds, from January 1994 to September 1996 there were 15 violations reported, nine involving underage sale or consumption. Coeds was fined $3,800 and had its license renewal contested several times before it was revoked.The letter said Columbus police had made 260 arrests there from Oct. 1, 1994 to Feb. 29, 1996, with more underage consumption arrests than any bar in the area. It said the bar “placed a tremendous burden on law enforcement resources.”From August 1993 to September 1996, Mean Mr. Mustard`s had four reported violations, two involving underage sale or consumption and $800 in total fines. The bar was plagued with tax problems. A transfer of its license to Froggy`s was rejected due to the new own
er`s connection with Al DeSantis, a campus-area landlord and bar owner who was imprisoned for tax evasion.