LIMA — A City Council committee recommended Monday not to object to renewing Harry’s Hideaway liquor permit. The committee also wants updates every six months on police responses at bars in Lima.
Council had received a letter from the Police Department regarding the annual renewal of liquor permits in Lima. Council learned Harry’s Hideaway on Cable Road had 152 calls, 38 objectionable, in the past year.
Councilors said they wanted updates every six months, which would give them an opportunity to direct the administration to send a letter warning a bar it was at risk of objection to its annual renewal.
If council objects to a renewal, the state holds a hearing on the matter, and the bar is in danger of losing its license. Councilors also said they wanted detailed information in the updates, such as the nature of the calls. When police are having a problem with a specific place, council wants the number and kinds of communication used to address it.
Jason Upthegrove, who owned the now-closed Brownstone, wanted to know where such a thorough questioning was in 2012, when council voted 6-1 to object to his liquor license on the recommendation of the police.
An investigation by The Lima News followed, showing other bars with far more calls for police service. Police since have said they were concerned about the kinds of issues at the bar, not the number. But it was the number of calls police provided to council in a recommendation to object to the renewal.
Upthegrove said Monday, as he has in the past, Lima police functioned “in a vindictive manner” because he frequently has criticized the department on racial issues.
“I came before council before you voted, and asked you to table this until you got empirical data. All of a sudden, Councilwoman Adams, you’re now willing to give an establishment the benefit of the doubt? You weren’t willing last year. What’s the difference between Harry’s Hideaway, Lombardo’s, the Firehouse, the Brownstone? The difference is subjective. The problem is Chief Martin lying before council, giving a false impression that something more serious is going on in some place, while turning a blind eye at another,” Upthegrove said.
The meeting grew heated at times, as Upthegrove said he wanted a public apology from council.
“I wasn’t given due process. This was slid in at the last minute. (Martin) knew people had been murdered in other establishments. Why did it take a year to have an epiphany? You’re functioning as a discriminatory body,” Upthegrove said.
Fifth Ward Councilor Teresa Adams said she learned from the 2012 experience, and that is why she advocated for the six-month updates.
“This was the first one of these I dealt with last year. It was the 12th hour and it was a learning experience,” Adams said. “That’s why we’re here tonight. I’m sorry it didn’t happen last year, but it’s what will happen going forward. That’s why I made the motion for the six-month review. I want to establish a procedure that covers the officers’ concerns, the department’s, the owners’.”
Seventh Ward Councilor Paige Townsend called Upthegrove’s speech a “diatribe” and said she wanted, as a part of the update, the number and kinds of conversations and letters exchanged between police and owners of problem bars.
“Why didn’t you follow this process last year?” Upthegrove asked. “Answer the question!”
Lima Police Chief Kevin Martin didn’t respond to Upthegrove but said at the start of the meeting the letter about the number of calls for each alcohol-selling business this year was an attempt to respond to what he believed council wanted: more information about all of the establishments.
In the past, police would send council a letter with the department’s recommendations about which license renewals deserved objection. Martin didn’t offer a recommendation in the 2013 letter but Monday said Harry’s 152 calls in a year was “worthy” of objection. Those calls include assaults, fights, intoxicated people and loud music.
Harry’s owner Harry Larschied said the bar has been in his family 34 years. The bar now uses a security wand on patrons on most nights of the week. It also scans IDs to make sure someone entering isn’t banned from the bar. Security personnel patrol the parking lot on occasion now. They welcome police walk-throughs.
When someone on the bar staff calls police for assistance, that call does not count as objectionable, police said Monday. Larschied said his staff didn’t know that until Friday. He said his staff rarely identified themselves when calling on a fight or other issue.
While Larschied said he didn’t recall much communication with the police this past year, Martin said the department has sent letters and talked with him about ongoing problems at the bar.