The city will keep the bar closed while the owner tries to sell it.
YOUNGSTOWN — The judge who closed a lower Belmont Avenue bar and declared it a public nuisance has ordered it to remain boarded up and padlocked in the near future.
Judge John M. Durkin canceled a hearing that had been scheduled for Tuesday on the city’s request for a preliminary injunction against The Cell, a bar at 221 Belmont Ave. that operated in the shadows of the Mahoning County jail.
Based on underage drinking complaints, the city had the bar boarded up and padlocked Jan. 8 after it requested and received a temporary restraining order from Judge Durkin.
Noting that the city and bar owner Jason Moore “have engaged in discussions that may lead to the resolution of this action while still furthering public policy,” the judge stayed all proceedings and held the case in abeyance for up to 30 days.
The city and Moore jointly requested court proceedings be delayed to permit Moore “to explore several options” for resolving the case, according to Tuesday’s journal entry from Judge Durkin of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.
If no resolution is proposed to the court within 30 days, the judge said the hearing on the city’s request for a preliminary injunction is to be rescheduled.
After the judge signed the journal entry, Jay Macejko, city prosecutor, said the stay is designed to give Moore time to attempt to sell the business and its liquor license to another operator.
“We can still further public policy, which is the closure of the bar and preventing underage sales, while still giving him the opportunity to sell his business and remove himself,” Macejko said of Moore.
“We were in a win-win position. The city was in the win position in that we are going to maintain closure of this bar for at least the next 30 days, and they’re in a win position, in that he may be able to recoup some of his investment should he be able to sell his interest,” Macejko explained. “And if he’s unable to, we come back in 30 days and we’re essentially in the same position.”
“The last thing the city needs is another vacant building. We welcome the opportunity to have a thriving business in our downtown area, and, if somebody wants to come in and run it lawfully, then so be it,” Macejko said.
If the hearing process goes forward and the city obtains a permanent injunction against The Cell, the premises would become dry, Macejko said. “There are huge ramifications were we to proceed and become successful as I believe we would be,” he added.
“We’re looking at a bunch of different options,” said Moore’s lawyer, Jeffrey Kurz. “We’re trying to come to a resolution that’s actually beneficial for both parties and allows my client to secure and make sure that he doesn’t lose his investment, and, at the same time, make sure that the city and the state’s concerns are met.”
Kurz said of Moore: “He understands the city’s concerns, and he’s trying to make sure that he makes a smart business decision, but, at the same time, that he shows proper respect for the city.”