City, new-bar owner fail to reach accord

The agreement would call for security guards and cameras at a new bar and grill.
WARREN -- Transfer of a liquor license from the now-defunct 77 Soul club has been approved by the Ohio Department of Liquor Control, but attempts by city officials and the owner of a new bar and grill to reach an agreement have not met with similar success.
In a hearing before liquor control Atty. James Bally in September, Councilmen Alford L. Novak, D-2nd, and Robert L. Dean Jr., D-at-Large -- along with several residents and business owners -- expressed concern that Benji Brown's Bar and Grill at 2261 N. Park Ave. will increase the crime and noise in the neighborhood.
Police were called to 77 Soul, at 4256 Youngstown Road S.E., many times on reports ranging from gunfire and stabbings to parking violations before it was shut down by the city in 2004.
During the hearing, the attorney for Benji Brown's owner, Marquita Gary, asked city officials to enter an agreement with her. Atty. Gilbert W. R. Rucker III asked that the city formally withdraw its objections to the liquor license if Gary would agree to provide security guard and cameras at Benji Brown's.
An agreement was drawn up by the law department, but Rucker and Gary have shown little cooperation since the liquor control board approved the license this month, Novak said.
A no show
"It's turned into a big mess," he said. "Ms. Gary was supposed to attend a meeting of my ward to talk about the liquor license, but she never showed up. Several of my residents felt slighted because they wanted to talk with her about the issue."
Rucker told The Vindicator on Tuesday that he did not know of any meetings that either he or Gary were supposed to attend.
Rucker said that he had signed the new tentative agreement and sent it to the city's law department, but he did not know whether it had approved the agreement. A call to the department was not returned.
Gary can proceed with opening Benji Brown's without the agreement with the city because the liquor board approved the transfer.
"We prevailed with the state on this issue," Rucker said.
The only other option the city has now is to appeal to the liquor board for another hearing, Novak said.

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