Thursday, April 10, 2003

Popular tavern draws complaints

Putter's riles some in Liberty

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

LIBERTY TWP. - A favorite watering hole in this booming Butler County community is prompting complaints from neighbors and putting township officials on alert.

Since it opened two years ago this month, Putter's Tavern & Grill on Cincinnati-Dayton Road north of the Michael A. Fox Highway has drawn crowds. But as Liberty Township continues growing, and with Putter's recent doubling in size to 5,000 square feet, more patrons than ever are frequenting the spot, which also features live music and dancing.

Neighboring residents and businesses complain that Putter's lets in more patrons than its 219-person limit. The small parking lot usually is packed, so customers' cars frequently line the side of Cincinnati-Dayton Road, spilling over into front yards. There also have been complaints about noise and outdoor urination.

Putter's owner, Jan Collins, says surrounding businesses are jealous of her success and that her business has never been cited for overcapacity.

"It just seems they have all joined this bandwagon because there is a successful business here," Collins said. "It would be different if this were a biker bar, if there were fights. In two years, I've had just three altercations.

"It's a real dirty shame, and I'm not going to take this lying down. I am not going anywhere. They ought to thank their lucky stars I am here."

Not everyone does.

"It's really getting out of hand," said Barry Kephart, 35, who lives across the street from Putter's. "I don't have a problem with it as long as they kept it over there, but it's gotten to be like a cancer. It kept me up until 3 a.m. one weekend."

The problem landed in township hall this week. Kephart pleaded with trustees Monday to resolve the situation. He told trustees a Butler County Sheriff's detective who works in the Liberty substation "intimidated" him. He said the detective, Ken Hardin, went to his home to tell him not to complain anymore to Collins.

Collins said she asked the detective to talk to Kephart because he "scares" her.

Kephart filed a complaint Tuesday with the sheriff's office about Hardin, a 19-year veteran. Reached Wednesday, Hardin referred calls for comment to his supervisor, Lt. Steve Roach, who said the matter was under internal investigation.

Some neighboring business operators also are upset. D&S Professional Grounds Maintenance across the street from Putter's has had tavern patrons' cars towed from the D&S parking lot.

This winter, D&S' snow removal equipment was blocked by vehicles owned by Putter's customers, said Scott Dillon, a company owner.

"I called Putter's and it took over an hour for her to have her customers move their vehicles out of my way," Dillon said. "I'm glad her business is doing well, but I just feel she is not ... understanding to any of the neighbors' needs or complaints."

Acting Township Administrator Barry Tiffany, Fire Chief Paul Stumpf and a deputy arrived at the bar shortly after 10 p.m. Friday for a spot inspection and found no violations. The township will continue to keep close watch, Tiffany said Wednesday.

A vacant lot across the street from Putter's recently was used as an extra parking lot. But Tiffany said that violated zoning codes, so cars no longer can park there.

He plans to meet with Collins and her attorney next week.

"We are working with Putter's to maintain compliance with all zoning and fire and safety regulations," he said.

"In light of recent events in nightclubs in Chicago and Rhode Island, it just puts an exclamation point on this to maintain safety."


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