YOUNGSTOWN Order forces closing of bar
Last week, the state division of liquor control suspended the bar from selling liquor.
By PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- A magistrate has ordered that Smokey Joe's, a bar in the city's Uptown district with a reputation for violent crowds, be closed.
A preliminary injunction order filed Wednesday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court calls for a closed notice to be placed at the entrance to the nightspot at 2722 Market St. A date will be set for a permanent injunction hearing before the magistrate or Judge Robert G. Lisotto, said Law Director Robert E. Bush Jr.
Permit suspension: Last week, based on liquor law violations, the state division of liquor control placed a 35-day liquor permit suspension on Joseph M. Gabriel III of Boardman and Nabeel I. Kandah of Youngstown, the owners of Smokey Joe's. The suspension for Joenub Inc. ends Dec. 12.
The city has also objected to renewal of the bar's liquor license, Bush said today.
"I'm very pleased with the order," Bush said. "They've had a reputation throughout the county for lawlessness."
Bush said he expected to have the police department's crime lab videotape the inside of the bar today, then have padlocks installed on the doors.
Previous order: Judge Lisotto had issued a temporary restraining order in November 2000, finding the bar to be a nuisance.
The padlocks came off the front door in December 2000 when the order expired. Since then, the city and bar owners have confronted each other in court several times, ending with a hearing last month before Magistrate Eugene J. Fehr.
Bush and Dana C. Guarnieri, an assistant law director, have been seeking closure of the bar in response to complaints from merchants and neighbors who complained about underage sales, property damage, shootings and unruly crowds that spill into the street at closing time.
Fehr reached his decision to close the bar after hearing testimony from the bar owners, Police Chief Richard Lewis, officers from the police department's vice squad and detective division and others.
Testimony showed that police investigated thefts, assaults including a stabbing, public indecency that involved dancers, underage sales, a security guard in illegal possession of a firearm and without a proper license, and more. In the past few months, there have been shootings outside the bar, one that resulted in a homicide.
"Several officers testified as to the reputation of Smokey Joe's as a place involving excessive calls to police requiring significant police resources," Fehr wrote in his decision. The city, he said, has proved with clear and convincing evidence that Smokey Joe's is a nuisance subject to abatement.
Insurance issue: Fehr said the owners no longer have liability insurance, an indication that they failed to commit sufficient resources to ensure that the bar did not interfere with "public decency, sobriety, peace and good order."
The owners haven't maintained a count of patrons, making it difficult to manage overcrowding in a place where fights regularly erupt, Fehr said. There's also no record kept by the bar of patrons ejected for fighting, he said.
Lewis testified that Smokey Joe's has required more of the police department's attention and resources than any other bar in the city.