By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer
A coalition of African-American groups seeking to reduce urban violence in Cincinnati has asked owners of grocery stores, restaurants, bars and nightclubs in Over-the-Rhine and the West End not to sell alcohol on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
The effort is part of the Peace Down the Way Coalition's "Peace over Profits" campaign. Coalition members said the no-alcohol day is the first of many initiatives designed to educate, empower and save lives in these communities.
The owners and managers at several Over-the-Rhine and West End bars and restaurants reported Wednesday that they have received letters, but so far none has agreed to close Monday.
Several Main Street bars, such as Jump CafÈ and Bar and Bar Cincinnati, aren't open on Mondays. Some establishments, such as Kroger on Vine Street, said they haven't been notified.
"We're doing the exact opposite of what they've asked," said Jay Kirkpatrick, manager at The Lab on Main Street in Over-the-Rhine. "We're pretty much going to have a big party."
The bar, Mr. Kirkpatrick said, will open at noon - much earlier than the normal 8 p.m. start - and that he may donate profits and tips to charity. He said he was astonished when he received a letter from the coalition Saturday.
"I think it's pretty ridiculous. I understand what (they're) trying to accomplish, but personally, after the riots and the curfew, we weren't open for about five days," Mr. Kirkpatrick said. "Everybody took at hit. ... (They) say peace over profits, but I've already given up enough of my profits."
The Peace Down the Way Coalition was formed in late December in response to a wave of crime and violence that resulted in a city record 65 homicides last year. Statistics showed that African-Americans accounted for about 75 percent of homicide victims, and black men between 18 and 29 made up roughly half.
The coalition, which is made up of dozens of organizations and businesses in the city, on New Year's Day declared a moratorium on violence. The group plans to try to reduce violent crime by placing trained volunteers on the streets to interact with "at-risk youths and adults," by airing public service announcements that promote peace, and by mobilizing residents to aid police in reducing crime.
The Rev. Damon Lynch III, president of the Cincinnati Black United Front, a coalition member, said studies have shown that many violent crimes are linked to drugs and alcohol.
About 3 million violent crimes occur each year in which victims perceive the offender to have been drinking at the time, according to a 2001 report by the U.S. Department of Justice. Two-thirds of victims who suffered violence by an intimate (a current or former spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend) reported that alcohol had been a factor.
"Your financial sacrifice and contribution to this effort by not selling alcohol one day out of 365 may save a life," the Rev. Mr. Lynch said in his letter to business owners.
Many of the store and bar owners applauded the coalition for trying to stop the violence, but many said the problem is not their establishments.
Duane Evans, manager of Cooper's Main City Pub on Race Street, said he has already responded to the coalition and indicated he has no intention of shutting his business for the day.
"The people that are patronizing my business are not the ones out on the street selling drugs, harassing people for change or breaking into people's cars," said Mr. Evans.
Rob Orabi, owner of Jet In Jet Out, a pony keg on Linn Street in the West End, said he might consider closing if all the businesses around him closed. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a busy day for his business because it is a holiday, Mr. Orabi said. Alcohol sales, he said, make up about 25 percent to 30 percent of his business. He estimated a loss of about $600 if he closed.
"There is no correlation between alcohol sales and crime," said Mr. Orabi, who is a member of the West End Community Council. "About 80-90 percent of the crime in this neighborhood is from drugs, not alcohol."
Mr. Orabi said he has already donated $1,000 to the community council to set up a security office; giving in to the coalition's request would cost his business more.
Enquirer reporter Erica Solvig contributed.
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