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Bad could become good for Lemon Grove incident

Published: Sun, February 14, 2010 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Todd Franko (Contact)

I have not been in a bar fight in my life. I did come close to one — at least from my perspective.

I had a couple beers in me (maybe more) one night in my college days, out on the town with the boys, sporting one of my favorite sweaters — a nautical-themed deal with “Providence” across the chest.

A guy looked at me. I heard him ask, “Do you got a problem?”

Testosterone triggered and machismo inflated, I whipped around with a look of disgust and a loaded reply: “No. Do you?”

Seemingly oblivious to my puffed chest and war feathers, he answered, “No, but my brother does.”


The guy smiled, pointed at my sweater and walked by. “He says it’s a cool place.”

Oh: “Do you go to Providence?”

How many bar fights result from such silly, isolated situations?

Most of them, I imagine, including the punch at The Lemon Grove in downtown Youngstown that sent state Rep. Bob Hagan to the floor first, then to the hospital for stitches.

The punch that police say was delivered by Dorian Thomas of Youngstown has been a public spectacle.

The story had legs for various reasons — bar fight, black vs. white, old vs. young, politician getting hit and “only in the Valley.”

Pick one. Some picked all.

It was unfortunate for Hagan and his family, for sure.

I believe it was unfortunate for Thomas. He’d been a good Grove customer, has never had an arrest, is a tap dancer and works on campus.

One radio-show caller, who described himself as an older white guy, said he knew Dorian, who’s black, from being around him four or so times per year for several years. This event was completely out of character for him, the man said.

I think it was also unfortunate for Jacob Harver.

The hit could end up hurting him the most.

He owns The Lemon Grove and has a home-equity loan on his house to prove it.

Many folks have made the leap of doing business in downtown Youngstown. The names that resonate with most of the leaders and the public are the Lou Frangoses, the bank buyers, and the boutique business incubator-tech groups.

They pour into downtown with investors and technical research and sizable government backing.

A guy such as Harver pours in with a lot of heart. And not a lot of hairspray.

To look at him and his tossed, stringy hair, you could reason that the last week has been tough on him. But he’s rational about the incident.

“Well, the Vindy message boards have certainly been active,” he said, with a deliberate pause and look at me. “Our regulars know what we’re about and know that the incident was completely out of character for what we are.”

It was the first punch thrown at the place in its six months of existence, which is a feat in itself noting that it’s open until 4 a.m. and is in the middle of the downtown bar scene.

The Lemon Grove is not a bar, but it serves alcohol.

It’s not a restaurant, but it has food till late at night.

It’s not a cultural institute, but it has culture.

Artist James Pernotto has been around West Federal Street for decades and is my unofficial Mayor of Downtown. He said Lemon Grove is just the kind of place Youngstown needs.

“It’s a nice place to hang, to read a book; I do some sketches there,” said Pernotto, who said he buys something there just about once a day — from coffee to a sandwich to some biscotti.

“That’s the kind of venue you need. These are the kind of people who get things going. Then another opens, and there’s a nexus of culture. I think it’s a great place. And what happened is just so out of character for that place,” he added.

And what happened would be undisclosed were it not that Hagan was the victim. Thomas was charged with felony assault.

But that it was Hagan, in a way, becomes an opportunity of sorts.

The Grove is a gathering spot for a cross-section of people, ideas and ideals. Harver said it’s a place that accepts everyone — and seemingly draws them.

On Friday afternoon, a black blues singer was singing to a lunchtime crowd that included a white couple whose age looked to be north of 70, two guys enjoying a specialty coffee, two business-clad folks and a foursome of thirtysomething ladies. Another guy walked in later looking as if he just left the John Mayer concert tour.

Knitting, crocheting and chatting is on tap each Sunday, affectionately titled “Stitch and [a five-letter word that rhymes with stitch].”

Scrabble is Sundays at 9 p.m., and Wii bowling is at midnight.

Youngstown State University- related clubs and authors and events are common.

Live music runs Wednesdays through Saturdays — or whenever else is convenient.

“We’re devoted to the revitalization of Youngstown — culturally and socially,” Harver said. “We believe that the revitalization of Youngstown will be through the arts. We are for-profit. But we have a higher ethical process — and that is to build a better Youngstown.”

Harver is passion over pretension — a passive but persistent demeanor.

Six months in business, he’s still going. He said it’ll be some time before he can collect a paycheck, but he’s hitting his goals.

Given the distraction of the punch and recognizing what the Grove is all about, I think there’s a potential for this episode to be further examined once the dust settles.

Thomas’ dustup with Hagan had threads of race, generations, Youngstown, bad judgment, aggression, etc., that would make for a great group dialogue at the Grove.

And it would be great to have two people on stage leading the chat — Hagan and Thomas.


1watchingthepolitics(100 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

I have never been to the Lemon Grove , but I'm going to put it on my list of places to go. I love it when the owners or even patrons, for that matter, come up with new and innovative idea's for entertainment. Take just a few short days ago, I think EVERYONE would have to admit that PUNCH A POLITICIAN NIGHT was a HUGE success. Oh excuse me, even the WANNA Be politicians were included in the competition, which I have to agree with and even raise a glass to. So keep up the good work guys and hopefully I'll be seeing you downtown real soon. St. Patrick's Day is right around the corner, that would be a GREAT NIGHT for the Semifinals and final competition.

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2Stan(9923 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

The Lemon Grove is not a bar, but it serves alcohol.

It’s not a restaurant, but it has food till late at night.

It’s not a cultural institute, but it has culture.

The Lemon Grove is not a fight club but it has fights .

Dorian Thomas has brought The Lemon Grove lots of publicity . Everybody will be flocking to downtown Youngstown to see where the big event of 2010 went down .

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3DrGoo(297 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

best story so far.

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4DrGoo(297 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

except Dorian is not the tap dancer, lol...

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5DrGoo(297 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

Also, I would urge both sides to come to some sort of agreement. Right now it seems like people are looking for a winner and a loser from this event. There can not be a winner and loser coming from this just a loser and a loser or a winner and winner.

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6UnionForever(1470 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

The real loser is Youngstown. Just mark up another bad publicity for the city.

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7Stan(9923 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

Dorian Thomas is the sure winner here . The publicity for him has been priceless . Nobody even knew that he existed before this incident .

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8watchingthepolitics(100 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

Well, of course Dorian"Testosterone" Thomas is the winner here, it was a 1st round TKO over Bob"Do Nothing" Hagan. We can only hope for a rematch.

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9matchstick(4 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

@DrGoo your very right, there can only be a loser and a loser or a winner and a winner. I have asked on Hagan's facebook if he would consider meeting with Dorian and accepting an apology from him. I have also asked if he would be willing to drop the charges against Dorian.

I have known Dorian for a long time, (I even worked at an orphanage in Tijuana with him) and when I heard about this event I was stunned. This was SOOO far out of his character. I now Dorian's response is something that he feels incredibly guilty about. I also know that is Hagan was willing to accept his apology and drop the charges against Dorian, it would mean a second chance for someone who has been fighting very hard to get out the inner city street thug stereotype.

Dorian is very much a good person who acted irrational that night. This is a situation that could permanently ruin his credibility. Hagan has the opportunity to forgive him and give him a second chance. I hope Hagan takes it.

This was a great article and I thank the author for requesting that the two meet to bury the hatchet.

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10Stan(9923 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

"Dorian is very much a good person who acted irrational that night."

Give Dorian a month in the slammer and then forgive him !

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11SemperTyrannis(49 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

All the loyal patrons of the Lemon Grove will continue to go there-so will the young and the progressive. Despite the Vindy board haters, the Lemon grove will be just fine.

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12matchstick(4 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

Felony assault = $20,00 in fines and 6-8 years in prison.

What Dorian did was extremely out of character for him. I was genuinely stunned when I found out. Dorian acted irrationally for a moment and now has to pay for it for the rest of his life. I know Dorian has been working hard to better his life and not be bound to the Youngstown stereotype, and this is a setback that will be difficult for him to overcome.

I understand that he "deserves what he will get" but Hagan has an opportunity to give this guy a second chance. He has the opportunity to give somone something they don't deserve.....grace.

We have all acted irrationally at some point in our lives. We have all done something that we deeply regret. We all could use a second chances.

If he does have to spend a month in the slammer then fine...maybe some sort of compromise can be reached...maybe the charges can at least be lessened.

I am just asking Hagan to consider at least meeting with Dorian to accept his apology. and...I am asking for a friend, that he find it in his heart to forgive Dorian and if he doesn't want to drop any charges, then at the very least reduce the charges against him.

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13DrGoo(297 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

Dorian needs to speak for him self.

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14SickofJimbo(140 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

Hey Paulb:
"Compensate Hagan for lost wages and medical bills?" Are you crazy, Hagan is a leachate politician AKA public employee who the public taxpayer pays via sick days (probably has 450 days saved) and the best healthcare money can buy. Understand that Bob "the leachate politician" gets paid regardless if he goes to work or not. This kinda puts it into perspective

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15matchstick(4 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

@DrGoo there is nothing wrong with speaking up for a friend and a good person. This situation can easily steamroll Dorian. He needs more people standing up for his character.

@sickofjimbo that's interesting...I guess we all are paying for Hagan's trip to the hospital and his time off work anyway. I never thought of it like that.

and as a note...I truly do hope Hagan is feeling better and that he recovers quickly.

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16candystriper(575 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

Senator Evan Bayh declared the American political system "dysfunctional", riddled with "brain-dead partisanship" and permanent campaigning. Bayh argued that the American people need to deliver a "shock" to Congress by voting incumbents out en masse and replacing them with people interested in reforming the process and governing for the good of the people, rather than deep-pocketed special-interest groups.

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