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Cincinnati council committee: State shouldn't renew liquor license for East End's Inner Circle

Liquor license objection passes 2-1
Posted at 10:54 AM, Apr 30, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-30 12:39:28-04

CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati City Council's Law and Public Safety Committee wants the state of Ohio to yank an East End nightclub's liquor license after allegations the owners allowed sex acts to take place on stage last summer.

The club's owners and attorney called the incident an unplanned, one-time occurrence after decades in business.

Recording artist Luther Campbell, known as "Uncle Luke," hosted a “twerk” contest at the Inner Circle on July 2. Twerking is a form of dance that involves rapidly shaking one's buttocks up and down while in a semi-squatted position.

But the contest quickly turned into a sex show for money, Cincinnati police say. The brothers who own the club each face a charge of procuring prostitution. 

Vice Mayor Chris Smitherman and Councilwoman Amy Murray voted for a liquor license objection in a Monday morning hearing. Councilman Jeff Pastor voted against it. 

Inner Circle has also been the site of dozens of violent crimes in the past 10 years, according to police. That includes six robberies, 42 assaults, 11 felonious assaults and two murders.

Christopher Heekin, the owners' attorney, said the allegations are "totally misleading," and the club's high arrest rates are due to the police officers the owners have paid to work off-duty details over the years.

"We've had the police down there, we've had security down there, we've had private security down there," Heekin said.

Police say last summer's event involved two women who were nude from the waist down, and two other women who performed oral sex on them for prize money.

"It's really hard as chairman of this committee, even if you say it's a one-off, to look past that,” Smitherman said. 

Police Officer Patricia Simpson, with Cincinnati's vice squad, called last summer's twerking contest "the straw that broke the camel's back with this club."

Pete Georgeton, one of Inner Circle's owners, told council members he tried to shut down the show but couldn't: Staff worried there'd be a riot, he said.

The criminal cases against Georgeton and his brother, Bill, are still working their way through court. Campbell also was charged with procuring prostitution, with a warrant out for his arrest.

Kevin Blum, a local music promoter, said Pete Georgeton asked him to help rebrand the club into the “great live music venue” it used to be. 

"I don't do rap or hip-hop or any of that type stuff,” Blum said. “I stick to country music, rock-n-roll, reggae.” 

Chief Eliot Isaac worries Inner Circle could become the next Cameo Night Club, another East End establishment where two people were killed and more than a dozen were injured in a shootout last year.

While local communities can raise formal objections to the state, Ohio's Liquor Control Commission ultimately decides who can get and renew a liquor permit.