Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Next Level: Liquor license

Oppose renewal

Cincinnati's police crackdown on problem bars is always an uphill struggle, and it got suddenly steeper last week with a nightclub called Next Level. Police recommended council should object to renewing liquor licenses for Next Level and other crime-magnet bars around town. The Neighborhoods Committee agreed, but then the full council, except for Republicans Pat DeWine and Chris Monzel, voted instead to give Next Level another week to come up with a security plan. Friday, landlord Steven Ross, whose Indianapolis company owns the liquor license, tried to evict the club, but club-owner Waleia Jackson won a temporary injunction against the closing.

Today council is expected to vote. Police say the club owners still haven't taken action to deal with shootings and other crime at 12th and Sycamore. They had a year to clean up their act. Council should object to renewing the liquor license, as it did for other problem bars.

"That's our leverage," DeWine says.

In 2002, police made 507 runs to that corner. Offenses included 133 assaults or menacing, 52 wanted individuals, 37 persons with a gun or knife, 28 shots fired, nine persons shot or cut. That's totally unacceptable. Neighborhood groups and Main Street nightspot owners objected to the surge in crime since Next Level opened. Unless council, judges and the Ohio Liquor Commission back up police, no crackdown on crime can succeed, nor can Main Street's entertainment district. Redevelopment expert John Alschuler insists the streets must be safe or revitalization won't happen.

Jackson and some council members argued the mayhem occurred outside her club. Some claimed the club was targeted because its clientele is primarily black. Alschuler also says the city needs more attractions for middle-class blacks, and he's right. But on public safety, a single standard should apply to all.

"I think an owner has a responsibility to try to control what happens outside," said Councilman David Crowley, who owns a Mount Adams pub. "An owner can hire a police detail. You want police outside so customers feel safe."

Council has objected to other bars' licenses on public safety grounds. Based on the police calls, it is justified in doing so in this case.

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