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Downtown, OTR bars under scrutiny following fatal Thanksgiving shooting

Posted: 6:22 PM, Jan 21, 2020
Updated: 2020-01-22 11:07:18-05

CINCINNATI — City leaders and Cincinnati Police officials are closely examining how Downtown and Over-the-Rhine bars operate after a fatal shooting that left one person dead and another injured on Thanksgiving night.

Officials are taking a closer look at how these bars operate and how to increase public safety in the area moving forward.

"Cameo was real and I was the chair when the Cameo shooting happened, and it was the largest mass shooting that we had ... ," said Christopher Smitherman, vice mayor of Cincinnati, speaking of the Cameo Night Club shooting that left two people dead, including the shooter, in 2017. "Obviously I want to be proactive."

The Chalet Bar, where the Thanksgiving fatal shooting happened, is just one of several bars in Downtown and OTR that Cincinnati Police are examining. They're also looking at a complex that includes OTR Live, Treehouse Patio and COPA Lounge. Patrons of the Sycamore Street complex were involved in a fatal crash early Sunday morning, and Paul Neudigate, assistant chief of Cincinnati Police, said there have been other issues at bars in those areas.

"December 23, 2019, we have two victims state they were robbed at gunpoint after leaving OTR Live," he said. "February 10, 2019, a victim states he was drugged while drinking at OTR Live."

Neudigate said the owners of Chalet Bar are cooperating with efforts to improve safety; he said they're looking into raising the age to get in, and limiting entrances to make sure those who do enter are properly searched. He said he's hoping the owner of the Sycamore Street complex housing the other bars will also be willing to work with officials.

"There does seem to be a connection between a lot of these incidents and these individuals being over-served," he said. "I think there is a misnomer that you're only responsible for what occurs inside the bar, and as a good permit holder you have to worry about what happens around your establishment when it lets out at night."

Smitherman said the city also hopes the owners of the Sycamore Street complex are as willing to work with officials as the owners of Chalet Bar have been; otherwise the city may call into question the bars' liquor licenses.

"It probably gives them about two months to do it," said Smitherman. "There’s some cases where the owners make no progress at all; that will certainly give this committee … important information at that time if they’ve done nothing."

Cincinnati Police have had 190 calls to Chalet Bar since 2018 -- a majority for noise complaints -- but it also had liquor license violations from serving to people who are underage.

"At this point, we want to work with the premise permit holder, to resolve all of this ... It absolutely cannot continue," said Neudigate. "And if we don't have 100 percent cooperation, then it could impact the liquor license as we move forward."

The liquor license holder of the Sycamore Street complex in question is the same person who was given the liquor license for Cameo, where one person was killed and 16 others were injured during a mass shooting incident in 2017. Smitherman said the past history of Cameo will not be taken into consideration at this point, however.

"At this point, these are separate businesses that the owner has. He has the right to have these liquor licenses in the state of Ohio, but we have the right to be safe and people who have these liquor licenses have a responsibility to operate under the law,” said Smitherman.

CPD is currently drafting a letter to the owner, asking him to come to the table and discuss ways to move forward.

WCPO has reached out to the owners of Chalet Bar and the Sycamore Street complex, but have not yet heard back from them.