LIMA — City council objected to renewing the liquor license for Levels Lounge during a special council meeting held Tuesday night.
Not much differed in the final vote — with two abstentions and one “no” vote cast by Councilor Jamie Dixon — but since the ordinance had reached its third reading, a simple majority was required to pass the ordinance.
Dixon said he voted “no” in order to be consistent with both prior votes and related council actions concerning other liquor permit holders. Dixon pointed out that in a prior communication to council filed Monday, the Lima Police Department came to the same conclusion concerning Ketzy’s Bar, North Side Firehouse and Levels Lounge.
“In that report, it stated all three were a hindrance to law enforcement,” Dixon said. “I believe in being honest, being fair and also being consistent. What is good for one should be good for all.”
Although the remaining councilors ultimately voted for the objection, many shared Dixon’s belief that the city should be more consistent in how they deal with liquor permit objections.
Councilor Todd Gordon said he would like to see council create a better process, but he also expressed concerns that Lima’s perception is often hurt by high-profile crime. Dixon had earlier requested the process be re-examined in committee.
The need for consistency also pushed Council President John Nixon to ask the city’s law department to draft an ordinance objecting to the North Side Firehouse’s liquor permit renewal. That ordinance has been scheduled for a vote on April 30.
Remaining councilors expressed their desires for safety, especially in the city’s downtown, as their reason voting for the objection.
Councilors Derry Glenn and Sam McLean both abstained from the final vote due to potential conflicts of interest. McLean, as a liquor permit holder himself, consistently abstains from all city action concerning liquor permits, and Glenn is related to Michael Liles, who manages Levels Lounge.
With the objection filed, Ohio’s Division of Liquor Control takes the next steps. Once a red flag is raised, the state sends an official to gauge the situation, and a hearing is scheduled in Columbus to review any evidence. The final say is then made by the state, meaning that a local objection doesn’t always result in a canceled liquor permit.
Derek Solomon, who holds the liquor permit for Levels Lounge, said council and city officials have unfairly targeted Levels Lounge as the source of crime, going as far as challenging Law Director Tony Geiger to a polygraph to prove comments that Solomon alleges Geiger made against the Liles family.
“The drugs and violence stems from all over Lima, and I agree we all need to find a way to stop it, but enough of putting the blame on someone’s livelihood, when we all know that it occurs so much more in our community neighborhoods and leaks to the bars,” Solomon said in a lengthy statement.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.