A councilman has scheduled a special meeting for 5 p.m. Tuesday.
By PETER H. MILLIKEN
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- City Councilman Robert Holmes III has called a special council meeting to consider a resolution opposing the transfer of a liquor license to a downtown location.
At issue is the transfer of the license from the former 77 Soul nightclub at 4256 Youngstown Road S.E., to 222 E. Market St. The transfer is being sought by LaShawn Ziegler, who owned 77 Soul and seeks the transfer under the name of Mighty Lion Inc.
The council meeting is set for 5 p.m. Tuesday in the Municipal Justice Building. The Ohio Department of Liquor Control will have the final say as to whether the transfer will be approved.
Holmes, whose 4th Ward includes the Market Street site, said he objects to the transfer because of the history of violence associated with 77 Soul.
"His past history was the stuff that went on at his old establishment," Holmes said, citing fights and shootings in and near 77 Soul.
"I want people to feel safe," Ziegler said, adding that he doesn't want a repeat of the violence outside 77 Soul. The new establishment would likely be a restaurant and sports bar, possibly with live entertainment and dancing, Ziegler said.
"I'm looking forward to a second chance to go after my dream," said the 33-year-old Ziegler. "My dream is to have entertainment for all people," regardless of color, including black youth, he added.
"I have personally been working for 31/2 years to create a downtown that is family-friendly," Holmes said. Council has just created a downtown entertainment district with a riverfront amphitheater, and Holmes said he hopes to attract new restaurants downtown. Eventually, he said, liquor licenses will be available for them.
Ziegler said he wants to be part of the new entertainment district. He said he and his lawyer, Gil Rucker, have met with city Law Director Greg Hicks and Safety-Service Director Douglas Franklin to discuss that.
Holmes called attention to a report he received from Christopher A. Taneyhill, the city's chief building official, in which Taneyhill strongly objects to the liquor license transfer.
"This objection is strongly recommended to protect life, health and property," Taneyhill wrote in his report.
In the report, Taneyhill said Ziegler operated an unsafe facility at the former 77 Soul, where Taneyhill said Ziegler altered the building without the required inspection or approval, knowingly violated the Ohio Fire Code and "put innocent lives in danger."
Ziegler was cited Feb. 12, 2004, for operating and occupying an unsafe structure at 77 Soul and did not appeal, Taneyhill reported.
77 Soul closed in February 2004 after Taneyhill cited it for not having sprinklers or fire walls and ordered it shut down. In mid-2004, Ziegler sued the city and its police chief, John Mandopoulos, in federal court for engaging in what Ziegler said was a discriminatory scheme to harass him and his patrons and shut his nightclub down. The suit is still pending. Taneyhill wrote that he has not approved the Market Street location for public assembly use and that the Market Street site doesn't conform to Ohio building and fire codes.
"Tell me what I've got to do, and I'm going to do what I have to do to meet the requirements," Ziegler said, referring to city officials. Ziegler said he would install a sprinkler system on the Market Street premises regardless of whether city officials require it.
"Irresponsible owners of businesses and structures cannot and should not be tolerated or allowed to continue and given opportunity to jeopardize lives of patrons who are not aware of the dangers around them," Taneyhill wrote.
Attached to Taneyhill's report were newspaper clippings concerning fights and shootings in and near 77 Soul.
Holmes said Ziegler could not get an exemption to the requirement for fire suppression sprinkler installation at the Market Street site under a grandfather clause because that location was a former pawnshop, not a bar.
If he's not successful in getting the liquor license transferred himself, Ziegler suggested someone else could buy the liquor license and building on Market Street.