Coconut Grove files lawsuit against city

By Peter H. Milliken


The Coconut Grove, a bar at 3229 South Ave., and its manager, Sam Moffie of Poland, have sued the city of Youngstown concerning a warrantless vice-squad raid, citation and seizure of alcohol at the bar Nov. 6.

In the lawsuit, David J. Betras, the bar’s lawyer, asks for unspecified monetary damages and an injunction banning the city from interfering with the bar until the state makes a final decision on its liquor-license renewal.

The lawsuit, filed Wed-nesday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court and assigned to Judge James C. Evans, says the bar’s liquor license remains valid until Feb. 1, 2013. The lawsuit demands a jury trial.

Bobbi Kosmo, 31, of East Lucius Avenue, a Coconut Grove bartender, was cited for serving alcohol without a license after she reportedly sold a beer to a police officer posing as a customer and couldn’t show the bar’s liquor license to police upon request.

Police said they seized 88 bottles of alcoholic beverages from the bar, stored them as evidence and notified state liquor agents.

The Ohio Division of Liquor Control rejected the bar’s license-renewal application in August. It cited 56 calls for police service at the bar during the year ending in March 2012; a homicide victim, Jerome Miller, having been found in the bar’s parking lot in October 2011; and city council’s objection to the bar’s liquor-license renewal, among the reasons for its decision.

The Ohio Liquor Control Commission denied the bar’s application for a stay of the license termination Oct. 10.

Anthony Farris, city law director, and Jackie Williams, commission executive director, said the bar did not have a valid liquor license Nov. 6. Williams said the bar shouldn’t have been serving alcohol after Oct. 10.

No warrant was needed for the police action, because a police officer “walked into an open business and asked for a drink,” and was served, Farris said.

The commission will conduct a hearing on the bar’s appeal of the nonrenewal of its liquor license Dec. 7 in Columbus, Farris said.

Police said they saw that the bar was decorated for a party Nov. 6, and that Kosmo told them 400 people were expected for the party that evening.

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