Monday, March 24, 2003

Milt's bar has had enough

Shutting down a bar on a binge is harder than getting a wino on the wagon. Uncle Milton's on Burnet Avenue should be drying out. "Eighty-sixed.'' Cut off.

Instead, the bar that draws crime the way a keg draws beer could stay open indefinitely, thanks to lawyering and appeals.

Milt's was a quiet social drinker until last year, when the neighbors started calling the cops. In one year, there were more than 800 police calls to the block where Uncle Milt's squats in a brown brick shoebox, next to a Post Office parking lot.

Disorderly conduct

There were assaults, robberies, gunshots, thefts, brawls, disorderly conduct, drug dealing and public prostitution. One woman who publicly complained received death threats.

Last May, a police raid found "multiple counts of drug sales and arranging drug sales by the manager and bartender,'' the Ohio Liquor Control Commission reported.

At their Feb. 25 hearing in Columbus, 14 people testified. Opponents of the bar included Cincinnati Councilman Chris Monzel and employees of Ronald McDonald House across the street, a home for the families of critically ill children.

"Normally when you go into Uncle Milt's, it is a who's who of the organized crime of Avondale," said a Cincinnati cop. "It provides a meeting place for drug dealers, a safe haven for them."

Only two people testified for Uncle Milt's: owner Deanna Morgan and Fulton Greenwood, vice president of the Avondale Community Council - and new manager of the bar.

Greenwood and Morgan blamed Ronald McDonald House.

Liquor Control Commission Chairman Eddie Edwards replied, "It was the patrons of the bar buying and selling drugs, shooting guns and fighting in and around the bar, not the patrons of the Ronald McDonald House causing the problem.''

"The management and employees of Uncle Milt's all share responsibility . . . and it is time they accept responsibility and quit blaming their neighbors.''

The commission voted 3-0 against renewal of Uncle Milt's liquor license.

Still a problem

But on Wednesday, a last-minute appeal was filed that could keep the booze flowing and the crime growing.

"That is certainly a potential problem, and that is why the attorney general and the Cincinnati law office are opposing it,'' said Mark Anderson, executive director of the Liquor Control Commission.

Assistant City Solicitor Melanie Reising said, "When shootings are going on and there is risk of loss of life, that poses an immediate threat.''

That seems obvious.

But like nearly everything in Cincinnati, the effort to shut down Milt's has been blamed on race. That bottle won't pour.

Many neighbors who have complained are black - and they are sick of gunshots, fights, prostitution and drugs.

A city manager's report shows police calls have declined, but crime is still a problem at Milt's, even after all the hearings, raids and complaints.

The court should turn out the lights and tell Uncle Milt's the party is over.

E-mail or call 768-8301.

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