Saturday, March 29, 2003

Thumbs down: Court blunder

Revoke liquor license

A Franklin County Common Pleas court's stay on revoking the liquor license of a long-time Cincinnati trouble spot disregarded near-unanimous recommendations from the neighborhood, the police and the Ohio Liquor Control Board. The board voted 3-0 not to renew the liquor license of Uncle Milt's, a Burnet Avenue bar, yet it remains open and still selling booze, this time thanks to the stay order issued by Franklin County Judge David Fais.

He should remove the stay, quickly hear the appeal and uphold the board's decision to deny Uncle Milt's license.

The Avondale bar has been a magnet for drug deals, prostitution, fights and shootings. Police busted bartenders and other workers for dealing crack cocaine and marijuana. The thick file sent the judge included a Cincinnati Council resolution urging Uncle Milt's license not be renewed.

It's an unfortunate quirk in Ohio's legal system that enables a Franklin County court to rule on a neighborhood problem in Cincinnati, but Cincinnati City Solicitor Rita McNeil explained that because the liquor board sits in Columbus, the court there rules on such cases from around the state. Cincinnati has been trying to shut down the Uncle Milt crime scene for more than a year.

This case illustrates the frustrations that communities face in trying to shut down crime havens. Cincinnati Police officer Jeff Smallwood testified, "Uncle Milt's clientele is a who's who in Avondale crime."

Community leaders in Avondale have been among the most vocal against the drug dealing, prostitution and gunfire. Ronald McDonald House officials, near Children's Hospital, also repeatedly complained. Bar owner Deanna Morgan said she planned a restaurant, but did not develop one. Councilman Chris Monzel and other city leaders offered to seek city grants for that purpose. Cincinnati has shut down other trouble spots, and police are monitoring other problem bars for possible shut-down.

The courts need to back up the police and liquor control board, no matter how far judges live from the crime-plagued neighborhoods.

Thumbs down: Court blunder
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