LIMA — When it comes to filing liquor permit objections, Lima City Council recognized last week that the devil is in the details.
During a neighborhood concerns committee meeting held May 15, councilors spent an hour trying to identify a better process for filing liquor permit objections for local bars — a task that turned contentious in April. But by the meeting’s end, councilors realized they’re going to need more than 60 minutes to hash out a process acceptable for all involved.
The current process asks the Lima Police Department to record the number of calls for each establishment and qualify which calls required their involvement and resources. That data is then presented to council for their final determination on whether council wishes to flag an establishment to the Ohio Division of Liquor Control for an investigation. The state’s findings can result in a bar owner losing a liquor license.
But as councilors found out last April, the act of qualifying calls requires the police department to make some initial judgments that can quickly confuse the issue. As was seen in April, the data gets shifted around as bar owners question police call sheets.
“In some instances, (council) throws (LPD) under the bus because we say we didn’t get that, this and the other, and really all it is we asked them for is their human judgment. And then we decided we didn’t agree with their human judgment,” Councilor Carla Thompson said.
LPD Chief Kevin Martin offered a solution to the issue during the meeting. The police department will give councilors all the information they have, and councilors can pass their own judgment since council already has the final say in filing an objection.
“It will take me out of the mix as the middleman so that it creates less confusion, less frustration, less anxiety all the way around,” Martin said. “We don’t want to make the calls on whether it’s qualifying or not.”
Councilor Sam McLean called the idea “totally unacceptable.”
“We rely on their information to be accurate,” McLean said. “I don’t want to have to go through each police report. That’s not my job as a city councilman. The police department is responsible for what a qualifying call is.”
Councilor Jon Neeper echoed McLean’s arguments against the idea and asked for simplification of the system instead of relying on a data dump.
Councilors Derry Glenn, Carla Thompson and Jamie Dixon agreed with that general sentiment of finding a way to simplify the process for all involved.
“It comes back to: ‘what is a qualifying call?’” Dixon said. “What we have to hone in and define is what is a qualifying call and what’s not a qualifying call, so we’re all on the same page.”
But as Lima Legal Director Tony Geiger explained, honing down the process may take actually take longer than having councilors dig through police reports. Formulating the exact legal language defining call qualification for every potential situation at an establishment is a tall task. By the end of the meeting, committee members motioned to continue to discussion at a future meeting to be scheduled.
”I just want to make sure that we play this hand right,” Glenn said.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.