Don't rush to judge Cameo Night Club operator, Cincinnati councilmembers say

Posted at 12:55 PM, Mar 27, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-28 09:35:04-04

CINCINNATI -- Several city councilmembers asked that people not rush to judge the owner of Cameo Night Club or his business after gunfire killed one person and wounded 16 others there early Sunday morning.

Cincinnati will start its annual review of liquor license permits next month. Police Chief Eliot Isaac said the department has worked on security issues with Cameo owner Jay Rogers, who also operates several other nightlife establishments. Isaac said Rogers agreed to have metal detectors at Cameo's front door, though they're not legally required.


However, city attorney Keith Forman told council's Law and Public Safety Committee Monday he's not aware of any plans on file to deal with security issues there.

Rogers called the shooting "senseless" and has been cooperating with police, Isaac said.

"My understanding, anything we've asked for, he's provided," Isaac said. He added there didn't appear to be any security footage captured inside the crime scene.

For now, Forman said the city is working with Rogers to see if he plans to keep Cameo closed for now.

MUST READ: All you need to know about nightclub shooting

Councilman Charlie Winburn urged other elected leaders to let Isaac's department investigate the crime "without judgment."

"If something happened at Kroger today or Procter and wouldn't shut it down," he said. "You'd get the facts."

Revoking a liquor license can take years, Forman said. City departments send a recommendation to city council on whether the city should object to a particular license; Council votes on that recommendation, but ultimately the state of Ohio decides. An objection from the city triggers a hearing at the state level.

"(The city's) input is critical, but it's only the preliminary stage," Forman said.

The city's law department considers three major factors, Forman said: the severity of crimes at the business, the concerns of the surrounding neighborhood, and whether an owner is cooperative in fixing any problems.

It's typically done on a case-by-case basis, he said.

Responsible bar owners are "doing everything they know how to do," Councilman Wendell Young said.


Despite security measures at Cameo -- which included four off-duty officers on a private detail in the club's parking lot -- several people still carried guns inside. That situation turned fatal when a fight erupted inside the club at about 1:30 a.m. Sunday. It was the largest mass shooting in the United States so far this year, according to data WCPO has reviewed.

"There are people in our society who believe it is their job to create chaos, to sow confusion, to hurt people," Young said.

Council's Law and Public Safety Committee holds hearings on liquor license permits; chairman Christopher Smitherman promised the process would be fair and objective, but also questioned why the nightclub needed metal detectors in the first place.

The victims and their families, he said, "certainly deserve my attention."

For WCPO's complete coverage on the Cameo nightclub shooting, visit