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Three downtown bars could lose their liquor licenses over crime, COVID-19 violations

Posted at 5:11 PM, Oct 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-27 20:39:59-04

CINCINNATI — Three downtown bars were warned on Tuesday that they could lose their liquor licenses if they do not change operations that have caused complaints surrounding COVID-19 precaution violations and instances of crime both inside and outside the establishments.

During the city's liquor license public hearing, owners of Chalet, Main Event and PRVLGD were told the city isn't objecting to their liquor license renewal this year, but they can be challenged again next year if significant changes aren't made.

Neighbors near Chalet have complained about noise, public urination, people smoking marijuana outside the bar, patrons brandishing weapons and large crowds without masks.

"There's disorder, there's marijuana smoking, there's alcohol drinking," said Captain Doug Wiesman, with the Cincinnati Police Department. "There have been some photographs of people who have guns there."

Main Event has been cited for drug sales inside the bar, saw its dance floor license revoked earlier this year and citations related to sanitation and underage sale. Wiesman said the police department's vice unit has cited them more than once for other violations as well.

PRVLGD has seen several noise complaints, a rape investigation, shots fired runs and felonious assaults. Wiesman said in June, a fight at the bar took officers from all five of Cincinnati's police districts to break up.

Wiesman said the owner of Chalet has been working diligently with CPD and the bar's neighbors to improve things, particularly since a fatal shooting outside the bar on Thanksgiving in 2019.

"Hiring extra security, getting more officers in place and trying to keep the right crowd and the right people in place of what we're doing," said Michael Evans, Chalet's owner.

Wiesman said the owner of Main Event hasn't been very cooperative about changing conditions in the bar, and the owner of PRVLDG hasn't been responsive about meeting with CPD to discuss changes moving forward. JR Blankenship, manager at Main Event, and Edet Wettee, owner of PRVLGD, both dispute this and said they've been working to create a safer environment within their businesses.

"Some of the problems that have happened have originated after we close," said Blankenship. "People that came and parked back in the lot and proceeded to play their loud music and dance and carry on."

Blankenship said the bar has been working on parking lot security, which is not part of the club but has seen extensive partying past the early last-call time bars have to observe in Ohio for COVID-19.

"I have done, in the four years that I have owned and operated PRVLGD… we have done everything by the book," said Wettee. "So, sitting here, looking at Captain Wiesman’s report, really hurts on all the things we’re doing."

Wiesman's report tracked crimes at or outside of all three bars back to 2017 during the liquor license public hearing.

Bar owners will have to return to City Hall in December, where Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman said he wants to see community benefit documents signed by owners to ensure there are improvements made to benefit neighbors and keep the businesses up and running safely. From there, owners will face next year's liquor license public hearing in March, where they could still have their licenses revoked if changes aren't deemed adequate.