For Toledo police, some taverns are too well known


Police officers and politicians alike keep their eyes on problem-plagued bars, gas stations, and convenience stores throughout the city - sometimes for simple complaints such as loud noise, but other times because of repeated reports of violence.

"We hear about problems from the neighborhood like people leaving their trash, vulgarity coming out of the bar, [and] loud noise," Toledo police Capt. Wes Bombrys said.

More serious problems, such as shootings and fights, eventually can lead to undercover officers being assigned to watch bars, Captain Bombrys said.

That was the case on Nov. 7 when two officers, wearing plainclothes and sitting in an unmarked car, parked 100 yards away from Big Shots bar, 931 West Central Ave.

Alvin Tate, 28, of 4423 Cape Lane, Toledo, was fatally shot after he pointed a 9mm semiautomatic handgun at those two officers outside the central-city tavern, which police say has a history of violence.

Uniformed officers were at the bar on Nov. 1 after a report of a fight, on Oct. 17 after a report of a felonious assault, on Sept. 19 after a report of gun shots, and on June 27 after a report of a fight and a stabbing. Toledo police Chief Mike Navarre said that "if we continue to have problems there," his department may consider suggesting that the bar's liquor permit not be renewed.

The Toledo police vice narcot-ics squad did not want to reveal what other bars it closely watches or even how many undercover officers are out there.

Days after an Oct. 8 shootout within the Route 66 Kitchen at 406 North Westwood Ave., Mayor Carty Finkbeiner promised to close down the bar, citing 15 police calls to the establishment in 2008 and so far this year. Last week, he relaxed his position and said the owner had impressed him with his efforts to make the bar safer.

The bar remains closed.

Chief Navarre said that typically when a bar in Toledo begins having regular problems, the department will ask City Council to object through the Ohio Division of Liquor Control and oppose renewal of the bar's permit.

In all, council objected 13 times in 2008 to liquor license renewals, with the state agreeing to pull three licenses. So far in 2009, council has made 13 license objections, and three have been granted at the state level, according to the state Liquor Control Commission.

In April, council dropped plans to object to a liquor license renewal for Nick & Jimmy's Bar and Grill on Monroe Street.

Councilman Tom Waniewski said he met several times with dozens of people upset about noise from the business.

"I always listen and I keep my ears on the neighbors," Mr. Waniewski said. "I am not out to monitor the businesses and we are not interested in killing anyone's livelihood, but at the time it was the only route because they weren't answering my calls to deal with the problem of noise."

Of the 13 liquor license objections filed so far this year, the three that did not get permits were for Whiskey Ranch, 1429 Baronial Plaza; H Town Bar, 711 Marmion Ave., and a new permit for 624 Monroe St.

Whiskey Ranch, which Councilman D. Michael Collins called a scourge of the South Toledo neighborhood, had 56 police calls in 2008 for complaints such as felonious assault, disorderly conduct, criminal damaging, public urination, and noise.

Another bar that council challenged this year, Tequila Sheila's at 831 Starr Ave., will remain open until the end of the year, when it has to move to 702 Monroe St. downtown or face losing its liquor licence, Councilman Mike Craig said. "In about a year and a half they had about 120 calls for service," Mr. Craig said. "There were 57 calls for service in five months, and they had a stabbing in there when they had the doors locked and safety forces were locked out."

Mr. Craig said the east-side bar is watched by vice narcotics detectives.

"That was the former site of the Rooster Inn that had been there for 60 years and never had a problem," he said. "There are three or four bars within a couple hundred yards and they don't have problems."

Mr. Craig said things will be better at the new location.

"I don't think anybody is going to put up with a bad bar in downtown like they did in East Toledo," he said.

Chief Navarre said that after the 2 a.m. last call at bars, officers turn their attention to gas stations and other places.

"One happens to be a gas station at 2315 North Detroit [Avenue] which happens to be a problem spot," the chief said.

Two people were shot - one in the buttocks and the other in the leg - at that BP station at 2 a.m. Sept. 7.

The chief said a gas station at Central and Cherry Street eliminated its problem with late-night and early-morning rowdy crowds by closing at 11 p.m.

"Monroe and Auburn [Avenue] is a problem location, and they tend to change … we crack down on one location and people stop going there," Chief Navarre said.

"Whenever there is a large group of people congregating and leaving bars in the early morning hours [and] with the number of guns on the street, it's inevitable that it's going to lead to problems."

Staff writer Bridget Tharp contributed to this report.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

or 419-724-6171.