WARREN, Ohio (WKBN) – A once “problematic” bar is now the scene of a different kind of crime after it burned to the ground overnight in Warren.
The fire broke out around 12:30 a.m. Friday in the 1900 block of Highland Avenue SW at the old J & L Lounge, now vacant.
Highland Avenue was closed in the area while crews fought the fire, but it is now clear.
“Wooo, something else. It’s amazing. Like I said, I lived here all my life and never think this would happen to it,” said neighbor Lavertta McClure. “We used to have good times over here too, you know, and all that.”
The bar has been reduced to rubble and now fire investigators say they believe it was intentionally set.
“I was just driving down Highland and there’s this abandoned bar or something that’s on fire,” a 911 caller reported.
It had been closed for a few years but firefighters say the owners were still keeping up with the utilities.
“There is no reason to believe that it was an accidental fire at this point,” said Interim Chief Joseph Natali, Warren Township Fire Department.
Warren Township police had called the J & L Lounge a “problem” in the past. It was the scene of several violent crimes, including the murder of James Dotson, Jr. in April 2016 and another shooting in 2018 where a man was hit in the back and drove himself to the hospital.
Now the bar is gone due to what investigators believe is an act of arson. It is still under investigation.
Up to a $5,000 reward is being offered for information that would lead to whoever is responsible.