Council opposes liquor permits; City to change stance if conditions improve

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 13

Toledo council followed through on its threats and last night asked state authorities not to renew the liquor licenses of two East Toledo bars that attracted police attention more than 100 times in 1999.

But council members were quick to add that they will reverse themselves if the bars can shape up in the next few months.

“I consider this to be probation,” council President Peter Ujvagi said to Robert Croak, who operates The Main Event and Club 128 on Main Street. “We’re a long way from where we need to be, but things are going in the right direction.”

Toledo police asked council to take the action, which seeks to have the state Liquor Control Division hold hearings on whether the bars’ liquor licenses should be renewed.

At a four-hour hearing Monday, police said the bars are centers for underage drinking, drug abuse, and disorderly conduct. In 1999, police answered 93 calls to the Main Event and 35 to Club 128. Neighborhood residents had a litany of complaints, from loud noise to public urination.

By a 12-0 vote, council agreed to request the state liquor hearings. But Mr. Ujvagi said that Mr. Croak has made large strides in addressing the problems and said that he is willing to withdraw the request if the improvements continue.

“A great deal of progress has been made in the last few months, and if more is done, I’ll sponsor the resolution myself” to withdraw the request, Mr. Ujvagi said.

Mr. Croak said he is happy to work with council to make improvements. He said he has increased parking lot security, added outdoor toilet facilities, and taken other steps to make the two bars more acceptable to neighbors.

“I understand the concerns, and I want to work with council to make the changes we need,” he said.

Mr. Ujvagi said one of the biggest remaining changes he will require is increased training of bar employees to help stop underage drinking. Mr. Croak said the training sessions will begin soon.

Council considered a similar resolution for a third establishment, Toledo Live, at 23 North Summit St., which was the target of police action. But council voted to send that resolution back to the administration after it learned the bar has been closed for six months and that its owner has no plans to reopen it.

In other action, council:

* Approved a new collective bargaining agreement with the Toledo Police Command Officers Association.

The pact gives TPCOA members pay raises of 2, 3, and 4 per cent over the next three years and raises the city’s contributions to the employees’ pension by 1 per cent. The changes are the same as those negotiated with the Toledo Police Patrolman’s Association.

As part of the agreement, the city will require annual fitness examinations for all command officers. It allows for four sergeant positions in administrative sections to be filled with civilian supervisors, freeing up officers for street duty.

The command officers’ union represents about 145 deputy chiefs, captains, lieutenants, and sergeants. It has ratified the agreement.

* Passed the city’s annual capital improvements budget, which details more than $99 million in spending in 2000 on projects ranging from street repaving to park improvements.

This year’s budget is the first since 1996 not to include any payments toward the Jeep project, which has taken a total of $4.8 million from the capital improvement budgets of the last three years.

* Discussed changes in the proposed living-wage law that is expected to be put before council next month. The task force proposing the law, led by Councilman Louis Escobar, met yesterday morning to make several minor changes in the proposal, including extending an exemption to seasonal employees.

The task force will meet again May 3 to adopt a final version of the proposal, Mr. Escobar said, with council probably voting on it May 23. Mr. Escobar said council likely will have to make the final decision on how small a company will have to be to be exempt from the legislation.