Former bar owner dropped a federal lawsuit against Youngstown

By David Skolnick


Sam Moffie, former owner of the Coconut Grove, has dropped a federal lawsuit against the city for what he once contended was an improper police raid, his arrest and seizure of alcohol from the bar.

Moffie, of Poland, said he agreed to have the lawsuit, which sought at least $1 million from the city, dismissed because Monday, he discovered an August 2012 letter from the Ohio Division of Liquor Control that informed him there was no chance he’d regain the bar’s revoked liquor license. Moffie said he hadn’t seen that letter before Monday.

“I’m a fair guy, and when I saw I was wrong, I dropped it,” he said. “The city had the right to do what it did, and that paper shows it. If I knew, I would have shut the bar down.”

U.S. District Court Judge Benita Y. Pearson ordered the dismissal Monday requiring each side to pay their own legal costs.

“I was pleased to see the case was dismissed,” said city Law Director Martin Hume.

The Ohio Division of Liquor Control rejected the bar’s license-renewal application in August 2012. It cited 56 calls for police service at the South Side bar during a 12-month period ending 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. Moffie said he had nothing to do with the murder or the 56 other calls.

The Ohio Liquor Control Commission denied the bar’s application for a stay of the license termination Oct. 10, 2012, but the Coconut Grove continued to operate.

On Nov. 6 of that year, city police raided the Coconut Grove at 3229 South Ave. Police charged a bartender with serving alcohol without a license and seized 88 bottles of liquor from the bar.

Moffie was charged three days later with unlawful storage of beer/liquor and found guilty in January 2013.

Moffie said Wednesday that he purchased liquor from a local agent licensed by the state between August and November of 2012 and received a citation for a liquor violation in September 2012 from the state without being told he couldn’t legally sell alcoholic beverages at the bar.

Moffie’s lawsuit against the city for demolishing a vacant house he owned without informing him is ongoing. The house was across the street from the Coconut Grove.

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