Why have the denizens of the recently closed Smokey Joe's Lounge been given the opportunity to upset another South Side neighborhood with shootings and violence? That's a question that residents are asking and that the Youngstown Police Department should be answering. It's not enough for Police Lt. William Powell, commander of the department's vice division, to say "when we closed Smokey Joe's, the entire clientele has gone to the Classique Lounge." The force should be out in force to keep the peace.
The old saying about finding a new door open when another door closes should not be applicable in this situation. Closing the door on violence at Smokey Joe's should not mean opening a door to crime in the vicinity of South and Cameron, site of the Classique.
And while it may be premature to call for the Classique to be closed -- we're willing to give the new owners some time to follow through with their promises of armed security guards and cooperation with the South Avenue Block Watch -- it is not premature to expect the police department to make sure that peace is maintained in that area.
In fact, Powell said the Classique's clientele -- the bar has gone through several name changes in the past -- has tended to be people who hang out outside the bar after closing making noise, throwing bottles and firing guns. That sort of behavior is simply unacceptable.
Fear factors: Children should not have to fear for their lives. Homeowners should not have to worry about property damage from errant gunshots.
Nor should the residents of other neighborhoods live in fear because, as Powell explains it, the bar patrons move on to the intersection of Market Street and Midlothian Boulevard or to Glenwood Avenue whether they gather in parking lots. If the police know that inebriated and armed hooligans are congregating in these places, then a significant law enforcement presence has to be there as well.
The bar's license holder Paul Sanchez is under indictment on federal charges of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and possession with intent to distribute cocaine. However, Willie Palmer and Carlton Holness took over the bar last year, and Palmer says he is in the process of getting the license in his name.
If Palmer gets that license and expects to hold onto it, it will be his responsibility to ensure the safety and peace of the neighborhood in which he has chosen to do business. He may be banning undesirable patrons from his establishment, but if they hang around the Classique, lying in wait to hassle other customers, Palmer must realize that his obligations don't stop at his bar's front door.