LIMA — What is usually a procedural item at Monday’s Lima City Council meeting could potentially take on added significance in light of recent events.
At Monday’s meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Lima Municipal Building, one of the communication items included in the docket is the request to transfer a liquor license to Helen Ruth Investments for the Beantown Saloon, 122 E. North St. The building was sold to Helen Ruth Investments in May for $125,000. On the ownership disclosure form for the transfer request, the managing member for Helen Ruth Investments is Thelma Banks, the owner of the Gas Station Bar, formerly the G-Spot Bar, located one door down from the Beantown Saloon. The Gas Station Bar was the site of the recent fatal shooting of Davohn Godsey.
Banks is among those included in a lawsuit filed by the city of Lima against the Gas Station Bar. The city is seeking an injunction to close the facility permanently.
The permit transfer request was forwarded to the Lima Police Department on June 21 for review. In a reply sent June 27, Maj. Angel Cortes said, “There is some background that concerns me. However, we have no legal reason to object to this request.”
The nature of those concerns was not revealed in the email.
Third Ward Councilman Jesse Lowe II voiced his disapproval with the transfer, saying the city had an opportunity to shut the G-Spot Bar down last year after another fatal shooting, but Lima City Council did not act on it.
“Last year in pre-council [meetings], I went to council and asked for the license to be removed, and I was denied and told to keep quiet,” he said. Law Director “Tony Geiger had all the paperwork being prepared to close that bar down, and I was told to let it alone. Now, a year later, there’s another brother shot and another brother dead, and that’s sad. And now it’s a political season, so people want to speak out, and I think that’s a shame.”
Council President John Nixon said that City Council members should not be quick to pass judgment, saying the legal process of the lawsuit should work its way out first before taking any summary action against Banks. Otherwise, it would be a case of “guilty until proven innocent,” according to Nixon.
“She owns the Gas Station Bar, but is she the operator? The manager? Did she have the gun? Did she shoot anybody? These are things you have to be very careful and fair about in saying, ‘Thelma Banks is listed in both places, so there must be a conclusion that we have to object,’” he said. “I don’t know if that’s necessarily fair for council to do. That’s the legal system’s job to sort through. Is it fair to say it might draw some additional scrutiny? Yes. Is it an automatic disqualifier? It’s premature to say that.”
Lima City Council can vote to file the request either with or without an objection. If an objection is to be filed, the city administration would have to make its case to the Ohio Division of Liquor Control as to why Helen Ruth Investments should not have the liquor license.